McLaren set to challenge Ferrari with its MP4-12C road car image

Performance car manufacturer McLaren is expanding its notorious rivalry with Ferrari from the Formula One tracks to the road, as the UK company has big plans with its MP4-12C sportscar.

McLaren yesterday opened an $80 million factory to mass produce the 200 mph model that starts at 168,500 pounds (around €197,145 at the current exchange rates).

McLaren aims to reach a production pace of 4,000 cars a year within five years, a very ambitious target considering Ferrari’s 2011 sales are expected to reach 6,500 units and Lamborghini currently builds around 1,350 cars a year. McLaren won’t rely solely on the MP4-12C to reach its sales target, with the company announcing it will develop eight models and variants over the following years.

McLaren will sell the MP4-12C through 35 dealers worldwide, 9 of which are based in the United States. The new model will arrive in U.S. showrooms by the end of the year as production accelerates. The company has already presold 2,000 cars, with 250 already delivered to European customers. Sales of ultra-luxury brands are expected to rise 19 percent to more than 28,000 this year, according to consultant IHS Automotive.

McLaren CEO Ron Dennis has reduced his stake to 25 percent in the McLaren Group, owner of both the F1 team and the road car division, in order to finance the MP4-12C project. Dennis has also an 18 percent stake in McLaren Automotive, the road car production company. Bahraini sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat Holding Co. is the biggest shareholder in both enterprises.