And it can all be traced back to one Ultimate Series model.
It was back in 2013 when McLaren pulled the sheets of its P1 hypercar, the gasoline-electric hybrid first member of the firm's Ultimate Series. Production was limited to just 375 examples and all were quickly sold. Next up was the P1 GTR, a track-only P1 variant limited to 58 examples. It also quickly sold out. But it was the high praise and wonderful customer reception the P1 hybrid hypercar brought that made McLaren rethink its hypercar strategy. Instead of rolling out a new hypercar Ultimate Series member once every decade or so, why not speed up that timeline? And so McLaren did.
The McLaren Senna debuted in 2018, limited to 500 examples while the GTR variant will only see 75 cars in existence. Earlier this year came the three-seater Speedtail, a direct tribute to the iconic McLaren F1. Only 106 examples are planned at a price of $2.3 million each. It was sold out even before it was officially announced in late 2016. What does this all mean? Wealthy buyers anxiously want McLaren hypercars.
Speaking to Automotive News on a recent trip to Detroit, McLaren CEO Mike Flewitt commented on the firm's Ultimate Series success and the all-new $1.82 million Elva roadster, itself limited to only 399 units.
"P1s were about $1 million, $1.1 million in the U.S.," recalled McLaren CEO Mike Flewitt during a stop in Detroit. "And we thought at that point, 'Hey, you know, we might come back into the segment every 10 years.' "The P1's instant hit status changed those plans. "The Ultimate segment, which is a several-million-pound segment, is much stronger, much healthier" Flewitt added. "McLaren has gained much stronger credibility in that segment, and more quickly than we had planned."
Basically, McLaren understood almost immediately it had to take advantage of hypercar buyers' desires but in only the right ways. "You've got to seduce people," Flewitt said. "People really have to want it to spend a million pounds ($1.29 million) on a motor car. You've got to produce something that is not just technically special, but it's emotionally appealing. And if you do, and your brand is trusted, that credibility builds."
Although the Ultimate Series hypercars are very production limited, their highly-regarded status trickles down to the rest of the lineup. Last year, for example, McLaren sold a total of 4,806 vehicles globally. In 2015, that figure reached only 1,654. Flewitt acknowledged there was a market for more P1s and Sennas but doing so could have hurt exclusivity.
"The high price, the low volume and the exclusivity [are] part of the appeal for people, without a doubt, Flewitt said."
As for the new carbon fiber-rich, windshield-less Elva roadster, it aims to be McLaren's lightest road car to date. That factor – along with its stunning design and performance capabilities – instantly made it a highly sought-after purchase.