MP4-12C is first of a series of supercars from McLaren Automotive

MP4-12C is first of a series of supercars from McLaren Automotive

The M&M relationship is now completely over. Mercedes has sold out of McLaren – a company that has disclosed that the road cars it intends to be selling from next year will compete with the German company.

Daimler Benz used to have 40% of McLaren Automotive – a company separate from, but co-located in Woking with, McLaren Racing.

Co-investors were Bahrain Mumtalakat – the Bahrain sovereign wealth fund which invests all the country’s spare cash, Mansour Ojjeh who owns the TAG Group, and Ron Dennis, the fabled executive chairman of McLaren.

TAG is best known for its time-piece company, Heuer, but it is a commercial property business which also happens to own Farnborough airport. Handy for Ojjeh to get to board meetings in Woking without too much inconvenience.

Remarkably, Dennis, the Saudi-born Frenchman, Ojjeh and Mumtalakat have mopped up the Daimler Benz 40% between them. Dennis and Ojjeh end up with 25% each, from 15% previously, while the boys from Bahrain have the rest.

All these share transactions mean that there is an implied value to the company. It is quite neat that a car company that has yet to sell a car and does not even have a factory can be valued at around GBP300m. New car manufacturers only pop up in Britain every few decades.

That is the value of the idea, the people who have the ideas, the facilities and the probability that race technology available to the road car will work a little magic. Some of the first detail sounds extraordinary. The lightweight carbon fibre MP4 12-C will accelerate to 200km/h in 10 seconds and decelerate from 100km/h in seven car lengths.

There is also value in the fact that McLaren is not brand new to making road cars. It did make the epic McLaren F1 and, in cooperation with Daimler Benz, the Mercedes SLR. According to the numbers boys in the suits at Woking, they were both successful in terms of the financial contribution they made to the racing programme. The F1 has been astounding. It sold new for GBP600k and sold at auction for GBP4.5m.

Dennis will not say what two cars will complete the McLaren Automotive three-car range, but an F1 replacement and a Porsche 911-beater would be two good guesses.

The managing director of the company is Antony Sheriff who has been Fiat director of product and spent many years consulting at McKinsey. He is just dropping his final dealer choices into place and will finish up with a global network of 35. Three of those will be in the UK.

The tricky bit of his job is avoiding the penal tax for high corporate average CO2 emissions – the problem that drove Aston Martin to trim little Toyotas with leather and apply their famous badge. The McLaren problem is not so great because the 12C is “only” 300g/km but the so-called 911-buster will have to be mighty light and mighty mean when the time comes to get the fleet average down.

Evaluation of the prototypes has been pretty simple. Sheriff just had to shoot round next door to prise Lewis and Jenson out of the FI cars, and then set them loose at Goodwood. There is a neat little film of them dicing at full chat and seemingly indicating that this thing is a bit more than just a sovereign wealth fund investment.

The lads want a car each as payment for services rendered but Dennis reckons the cars will come free only if there is some winning of races and world championships going on. Then they get a car each – replaced each year.

Wonder how much you'd pay for a car pre-owned by the 2008 or 2009 World Champion? I’d be up for one.

Rob Golding

See also: UK: McLaren launches supercar company