McLaren's new factory to be as lean and agile as its hot new car

An investment of up to £750m in UK high-tech manufacturing was announced today, with the launch of the McLaren MP4-12C, an innovative sportscar that will be built in a new factory outside Woking in Surrey.

“Creating a world-beating company was and remains a personal goal,” said McLaren chairman Ron Dennis. "We intend to contribute to innovation and manufacturing in the UK, and we intend to redefine precision manufacturing in the UK.”

The new car is the first of a range of vehicles promised by McLaren Automotive, which is a sibling to McLaren Racing, and its £40 million production centre will sit alongside the existing McLaren Technology Centre (MTC), where McLaren Automotive built the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren supercar and is currently building the first MP4-12C models.

Ground was broken on the McLaren Production Centre (MPC) site at the start of this month, and plans call for it to be up and running in 12 months time, said Antony Sheriff, McLaren Automotive's managing director. The aim is to build up to 1,000 cars in 2011, with a selling price of around £150,000 each.

The company said it already has 1,600 “qualified strong intents” lined up as potential buyers. Among them are its Formula 1 driving team of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, who took the wraps off the new car this morning. “I got on the phone to Ron straight after test-driving the 12C and said 'When can I get one?',” Hamilton said.

Sheriff said that building the MP4-12C presented an “irresistable challenge. We took that challenge and turned it into an opportunity – reinventing everything about how you make a car.”

Like the production area in the MTC, the new MPC will be white-tiled with transparent glazed partitions. “If something is out of place or dirty, you'll see it,” he said. “It will use the best lean principles, with a U-configuration and a single level and all parts delivered just-in-time, and all visible from the whole floor.” He added that McLaren also encourages problem solving at each workstation, and obliges its technicians to signal potential problems.

The car itself is built around a Formula 1-derived carbon-fibre monocell, which forms the core of the chassis. The body panels are non-structural, allowing them to be lighter. Weight-saving measures run right through its design – even its wiring is hexagonal aluminium, allowing the designers to save some 4kg overall. As a result of all this, the whole car weighs just 1,300kg.

Sheriff added that everything in the car was designed and built to McLaren's specification, even its 600BHP twin-turbo V8 engine – there are no carry-over parts.

Ron Dennis said that the 12C was just the first in a planned family of cars, with two more already in development. All will be rear-engined two-seaters, he added.

He said that the total investment in McLaren Automotive will be between £670m and £750m, depending on design changes during the project. Some 300 people will be employed at the MPC, and Dennis said he expected it to create as many jobs again in the supply chain.

He added: “This is good news for McLaren, it's good news for the UK, it's good news for car enthusiasts everywhere - and it's good news for me!”

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