McLaren, best known for its Formula One involvement, has formally launched a road-car company – McLaren Automotive – with the aim of building a range class-leading high-performance, top-end sports cars.

The UK-based group plans to invest GBP750m over five years in the venture.

Beginning with the MP4-12C model, the new company will design and develop a range of premium high-performance sports cars, to be made in a new manufacturing facility with the intention of selling and servicing through a dedicated global retail network.

Ron Dennis is chairing the new company.

“This new business will also bring into the UK new investment, a new manufacturing facility – the McLaren Production Centre – and new skilled jobs within the UK’s network of high-tech manufacturing and engineering businesses. I believe that McLaren Automotive is good example of how the UK can develop a new, innovative and globally influential manufacturing base, through technological innovation in design and build-processes,” said Dennis.

“Launching a new car company is a great challenge that is exciting everyone at McLaren. Everything is in place and on schedule for the first of our new range of cars to go on sale in the first half of 2011. These are exciting times – for McLaren, for car enthusiasts and, just as importantly, for people who are passionate about technology, innovation and engineering,” Dennis added.

The MP4-12C, built around a chassis made of ultra-lightweight and crashproof carbon fibre, will have a top speed of 200mph and accelerate from zero to 200kph in less than 10 seconds.

McLaren is targeting a price of between GBP160,000 and GBP170,000 for the car.