A four-door SUV is being considered by McLaren
Michael Leiters says he is open to idea but British supercar maker “shouldn’t do a classic SUV”
New McLaren Automotive boss Michael Leiters is open to launching an SUV, and the firm is actively investigating what form such a model may take.
Speaking exclusively to Autocar in his first interview since joining McLaren on 1 July, Leiters said he’s keen to evolve the British brand’s offering beyond purely mid-engined supercars.
Autocar first revealed plans were under way for a McLaren SUV back in June, before Leiters officially joined the company, detailing that a new model could be on course to hit the market in the second half of this decade, with a price point expected to be close to £350,000.
It was also tipped to be a fully battery-electric proposition, not a hybrid, and be sold in a number of power guises, with dual or tri-motor, four-wheel-drive designs offering exalted performance levels likely to match the recently launched Aston Martin DBX 707, which is currently billed as the world’s fastest SUV.
And with Leiters’ overseeing the launch of two high-end SUVs during his career – the Porsche Cayene and most recently in his role as technical chief at Ferrari, where he led the development of the upcoming Purosangue – it’s expected that McLaren may soon follow suit.
“I developed an SUV at Ferrari,” Leiters said. “I developed an SUV at Porsche, so I love SUVs. But we won’t do it for me. Yet I think it’s a really important market.
“It still is, and it continues to grow. It’s very attractive as a market segment.”
McLaren’s radical change of heart about crossovers is undoubtedly a result of the sales success of its rival performance brands, whose existing crossover and SUV models already heavily outsell their lower-slung models and generate most of their profits.
For example, Porsche delivered more cars than at any point in its 91-year history in 2021, with the Porsche Macan SUV and larger Cayenne together accounting for well over half of its 300,000 sales, while the Porsche 911 sports car accounted for just 38,464.
The DBX made up half of all Aston Martin global sales in the same period, its first full year on sale.
“What we have to understand as McLaren is ‘how can we find a product that is in line with our DNA?’. We shouldn’t do a classic SUV,” Leiters added.
However, while Leiters is keen to create such a model, he insisted that it very much remains at the discussion stage and that McLaren is also open to other ideas and models instead of, or in addition to, an SUV.
An SUV would also have a knock-on effect to McLaren’s current range of models, said Leiters, as it would lead to greater brand awareness and acceptance. He said that at Porsche it wasn’t just 911 buyers going into the Cayenne; it was people buying a Cayenne and then going on to buying a 911 too.
Leiters conceded that there was overlap within McLaren’s existing range and that any new model it created couldn’t cause further cannibalisation. That’s why the likes of an SUV are under consideration, rather than any front-engined sports cars or supercars, and why electric technology was so appealing as a new architecture allowed for McLarens of different sizes and proportions.
Rumours persist around McLaren entering into a partnership with a major car maker, with talks with both BMW and Audi known to have taken place.
Leiters confirmed that McLaren was interested in working with a partner but said that no deal was imminent.
“You have two sides of a partnership, one is technology and one is financial,” he said. “And if you find both in one, definitely that will be the best. But the first thing is to have a technology partner to create synergies. But it has to be the right partner.
“We have to maintain our DNA; I’m not interested in any partner which gives me only ‘me too’ technology. So the question is to find the right partner; the question is not to find a partner.”