Interview: taking the pulse of McLaren Automotive with sales boss Jolyon Nash

Published: 21 June 2017

► Interview with Jolyon Nash
► McLaren's sales & marketing boss
► Talking McLaren's core values and future

The only thing faster than McLaren’s new 720S is the pace at which the company is growing and expanding – it’s difficult to believe that Woking’s raft of scintillating new models, advanced technology and through-the-roof sales figures have all been achieved by a company just five-and-a-half years old.

We caught up with Jolyon Nash, McLaren’s head of global sales and marketing to get an inside line on how that success has been achieved – and will be sustained. 

CAR: What is McLaren all about? Let’s have your best elevator pitch

Jolyon Nash: 'McLaren is serious about driving. If you love cars and you love driving, then you should own a McLaren. We combine an extraordinary driving experience with fearless engineering and cutting-edge technology like no other brand out there.

'The brand is what it is because of Bruce McLaren. We are rooted in the past, but one of our core facets has always been a relentless drive into the future. You have to be true to your brand, you need to stick to its DNA. If you move away you dilute your brand equity and you betray your DNA.'

CAR: What’s your goal?

JN: 'Global awareness. We launched the 12C in 2011 and by 2021 I want significantly higher awareness in many more markets. We want to draw on our heritage and motorsport success – they are hugely important to the McLaren story. I also want to make sure people know about the culture of McLaren – it’s warm, and open and informal, with close and regular contact with McLaren owners. Now, I know you’re thinking that's not the perception some may have of us. Some might say we’re cool and clinical. We’re not. Just ask McLaren owners.'

CAR: How will you create and build that awareness?

JN: 'Events are critical for this exposure, events that get us close to our existing and potential customers. Our dealer network is also central to this growth. We currently have around 80 dealers. Two to three years from now, I’d like to see that increase to 100-110 so we can hit the right balance between viability and customer numbers.

'We don't have plans to get much bigger. In 2016 we sold 3300 cars. This year we’ll do 4000 and after that we’ll settle in somewhere between 4000 - 5000 cars. That will be the limit of our production capabilities.'

McLaren 720S Memphis Red front cornering

CAR: Will McLaren try and change the traditional sales model, and if so, how?

JN: 'Our relationship is triangular – there are our customers, our retailers and us, the manufacturer. There is no way you can break that relationship without putting one element out of balance with the others. Our customers talk to us and to our retailers all the time. They’re part of the family, like members of a club. There’s no stratification with customers and senior management – we talk all the time.

'The used car business is also very important. We don't have a buy-back policy in place. Woking has a direct relationship with its customers, but the retailer is main point of contact.

'There are two ways to understand McLaren – one, you drive our cars, and then two, you visit MTC (McLaren Technology Centre). We invite as many customers as possible to MTC and then to introduce them to MSO (McLaren Special Operations). MTC and driving – they’re the key elements of McLaren ownership. Our retailers create an incredible sense of trust with their customers, they’re trusted advisors, like a personal shoppers. They’re there to communicate, not sell.'

CAR: Ferrari combines front- and mid-engined models and Lamborghini has an SUV on the horizon. Will McLaren stick to its mid-engined format, or are there plans for something different in the pipeline?

JN: 'I think we’ll stick with our mid-engined layout. It’s best for performance, dynamism and engagement. Will we move away from this layout? I don’t think so – our core is mid-engined.'

CAR: You were at Rolls-Royce and before that at VW and BMW? Why the move to McLaren?

JN: 'Easy – it’s an iconic brand, and I’m a car and motorsport enthusiast. I was given the opportunity to join McLaren during a major growth phase. It’s a young brand, and at the risk of sounding too dramatic, I believe we are making automotive history at McLaren. 

'The people are McLaren. The energy in the company is immense – we are young, committed and passionate. It’s an entrepreneurial business we are in. It’s inexorably slow working for larger companies. We’re small, so we can react quickly and effectively to opportunities, to issues and to customer feedback. In five years we’ve gone from zero to building 10,000 cars and being an established mainstream player – we’re a true contender - in one of the most competitive sectors in the world. That makes me proud.'

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By Ben Whitworth

Contributing editor, sartorial over-achiever, HANS device shirt collars