Thursday, August 06, 2015

McLaren road cars and carbon fibre

This is a brief and much abbreviated story of the McLaren road cars.
1998 - Scepticism about performance and safety:
McLaren was the first manufacturer to bring out a full carbon fibre monocoque chassis production car, the F1 in 1998. It, also used gold foil as heat reflector, titanium, kevlar and magnesium and unique McLaren F1 technology to a road car. It was a radical idea then. But success after success the McLaren F1 proved the sceptics wrong, by its performance/safety and became the fastest production car in 1998 (390 km/hr) and still remains the fastest naturally aspirated production car in the world. I think a true turning point in automotive history.
2009 - Scepticism about profitability:
Mercedes and BMW even after collaborating with McLaren in the past (mostly to produce its engine) did not fully pick up on the idea. BMW convinced itlself that experimentation in carbon fiber would never be cost effective to be profitable. I think BMW even made a public statement to that effect. There was a carbon fibre Mercedes Mclaren SLR though. BMW stuck to traditional manufacturing processes and played it safe.
Then again, McLaren stuck to its guns of no compromise and against all conventional wisdom in 2009 produced the MP4-12C a full carbon fiber chassis and a car fully designed and built by McLaren this time. Then the P1 followed and the rest is history. In just 6 years, the company has surpassed performance expectations and profit expectations. This was a kind of success story unheard of in consumer automotive history. This, shook the industry to the point, where well established manufacturers Audi, BMW are now scrambling to jump on the carbon fibre band wagon, setting up plants helter skelter to cash in and trying to replicate the success of McLaren.
What's even more impressive is that, a manufacturer in almost its first iteration, literally starting from scratch produced a road car the McLaren P1, that compares to the top models (carbon fibre monocoque and hybrid) Porsche 918, Ferrari LaFerrari from manufacturers whose road car production lineage spans decades.

No comments: