McLaren Losing Money?

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Ron Dennis changes his job description as McLaren Automotive struggles to turn a profit, now two years since the launch of its first new product.

McLaren is used to investing big bucks into developing new cars. After all, the Formula One team designs a new car each year. But whereas those costs are offset by sponsor dollars from such deep pockets as Vodafone's and Santander's, the McLaren Automotive division has to rely on selling its cars in order to support itself, much less make a profit. Now two years since the launch of its first new road car, the MP4-12C, McLaren Automotive has yet to turn a profit, with some fingers pointing at Ron Dennis.

The longtime mastermind behind McLaren's racing success, Ron Dennis stepped away from the F1 team in 2009 to head the new automotive division, leaving the racing operations in the capable hands of Martin Whitmarsh. Earlier this year, Dennis also stepped back from the day-to-day running of McLaren Automotive to take a more supervisory role as chairman of the entire McLaren Group. The timing of the move has prompted media speculation that McLaren's shareholders (other than Dennis himself, of course, who owns over 18% of the company) had grown impatient of Dennis' apparent failure to turn a profit.

McLaren reportedly insists that the management change was long in the making and that the company is well on the road to profitability. The question is just who will fill Dennis' shoes at McLaren Automotive, after managing director Antony Sheriff was notably absent at the recent unveiling of the new McLaren P1 last month in Geneva.

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