Inside the new McLaren Production Centre, home of the MP4-12C

Published: 17 November 2011

McLaren today opened the doors to its new McLaren Production Centre which will build the MP4-12C and all future supercars from Ron Dennis’s fledgling sports car brand.

British prime minister David Cameron attended the event, hailing the economic benefits of manufacturing. He said the UK car industry was helping reshape the national economy from a service-based one enriching the minority to one which actually made things again – to the benefit of a wider slice of society. ‘Even the French are sitting up and taking notice,’ he joked.

What’s the new McLaren Production Centre like?

As pristine as you’d expect from Ron Dennis’s detail-obsessed enterprise. It’s a new facility next door to the F1 team’s McLaren Technology Centre. Walk along a 92m tunnel and you’re plopped into a space-age laboratory, where rich confections of carbonfibre and aluminium are married over several days to create the 12C.

It’s a 20,000sq m factory unlike any other car plant I’ve seen. The floor’s so clean, you could eat your lunch off it. And you get the impression the muted silence isn’t just for the VIPs – studied hard work is order of the day at Woking.

‘We don’t drop parts or have leaks – it’s not like other car factories,’ Antony Sheriff, managing director of McLaren Automotive, told CAR.

This a final assembly affair, with no components manufactured in Woking. The 12C’s parts come from France (some body panels), Italy (the roof) and of course the UK (that turbocharged V8, made by Ricardo). It’s like a meticulous, highly skilled giant Airfix model centre, only with six-figure prices.

How many cars do they build in Woking?

They’re currently at six and a half 12Cs a day, but that’s steadily ramping up. By the middle of the decade, the plan is to build 4000 cars a year here, once convertibles, top-end supercars and a cheaper sports car have been launched.

Today’s event was all about spreading the message of McLaren’s reach. We heard how McLaren Applied Technology had helped British Olympic cyclist Mark Cavendish save weight on his Specialized road bike. About how McLaren’s electronics wing will from 2012 supply all the control systems for every F1, Indycar and Nascar team. Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were rolled out to talk about the F1 season (‘not our best,’ admitted team chief Martin Whitmarsh) and they’re all hoping 2012 will be more successful on track.

The McLaren way

Coming second in the championship is clearly not good enough for McLaren. Only 6% – six per cent! – of next year’s F1 car is carried over from this year, and it’s that sort of attention to detail which makes us think the 12C is just the beginning for McLaren Automotive.

They’re clearly smarting from the launch tests of the 12C and most magazines’ verdicts placing it a whisker behind its Ferrari nemesis. But with an appetite for perfection like McLaren’s, I’d wager the next cars will raise the bar even further. 

By Tim Pollard

Group digital editorial director, motoring news magnet