McLaren Automotive returned to the world of automotive car manufacturers with the release of the McLaren MP4-12C. With the sports car now being available and on sale worldwide, the UK brand has started the production and delivery of the new MP4-12C. Time for us to visit the McLaren Technical Center (MTC) and the brand new McLaren Production Center (MPC) in Woking, southwest of London.
McLaren has invested close to £ 800m since 2005 to establish itself as the newest global car company. The new £ 40m McLaren Production Centre (MPC) is part of the investment and a unique facility that will be the home of all future sports cars from McLaren. Construction of the MPC started in March 2010 and it was officially opened by UK Prime Minister David Cameron late in 2011.
McLaren Automotive began 2012 by building nine of the new MP4-12C sports cars every single day. Up to this moment they achieved nine to ten cars per day, according to Alan Foster, Operations officer, who gave us a tour through the MPC factory. Foster said:
I am really proud of the team effort that has gone into ensuring the MPC was ready for production on schedule. The intention is to keep this level of production for the coming months until a second new McLaren model hits the production floor. We aim to build around 1,000 12Cs in the first full year of full production (May ’11 – May ’12), and we are rapidly approaching this figure already.
Assembling a brand new car in a brand new manufacturing facility was a huge challenge, and has not been without its teething problems, but we met them head-on with passion and commitment. We’re as proud of the factory as we are of the car. That’s why our customers will be welcome to see their cars being built here. The MPC has to be both highly effective and efficient, and look stunning: it ticks all those boxes.
The type of factory McLaren built is unique in every single way. The focus on details has been taken to an extent we have not seen before. The building blends perfectly into its environment and is linked to the MTC using a subterranean pedestrian tunnel pulled from a science fiction movie. The first steps inside the MPC bring you through a white hallway onto a balcony overlooking the assembly hall, which combines two statements; clinical precision and remarkable cleanliness.
On the crystal clear white floor you will spot different test zones housed inside see-through cabins, two single assembly lines where the production of the MP4-12C is completed and a cutting-edge paint facility in the second room. This is ready for computerized painting, but for now it is operating manually.
At just over seven meters high and embedded in the gentle incline of the site, the MPC is lowered in the surrounding field and not visible from the road. The MTC uses the lake for cooling, so the roof of the MPC will support this system, collecting rainwater to complement a low-energy system that utilizes displacement ventilation. There is no heating or cooling system inside the factory, being so low in the ground, the earth surrounding the building provides the climate inside. The ventilation systems are placed on the walls and provide a constant flow of air throughout the building.
Another noticeable point are the markings and notifications on the walls. Each sticker is on the same line of sight! The boxes and tools on the assembly floor or not higher than a certain amount providing the ability to easily overlook the 32,000-square meter two-storey MPC and workforce of 300 people. The cars are moved around on rigs, which can be used for any type of future McLaren sports car. The fixing points are pre-set for each car and give McLaren the option to produce each type of future car within the same assembly line.
Designing a brand new factory also allowed us the opportunity to do it with no compromise. Like the car, it began with a blank sheet of paper. I believe it is therefore unique in that the factory has been designed around the manufacturing processes of the car itself. Every other car factory I have ever seen is compromised by fitting the car manufacturing processes into the shape and size of the buildings’ limitations. This results in more effective and quality-assured processes.
Foster informed us that his team is working hard on offering any type of customer request regarding the MP4-12C. To achieve this the McLaren Special Operations team was created, a special team testing and developing new parts and ideas. Using the carbon MonoCell it offers the MSO team the ability to consider almost any customer requirement, from special colors, personal interiors, or even new body styles. As long as the budget is available, the customer can opt for any type of bespoke refinement. There are no boundaries, according to the Operations manager.
Next to the production facility, there is the MTC which houses the other departments and companies within the McLaren Group. They consists of Racing, Automotive, Marketing, Electronics, Applied Technologies and Absolute Taste, a catering company. All are based at MTC and are accompanied by a wonderful display of historical racing and sports cars. In the corridors we even came across a series of McLaren sports and motorsports cars that are currently used at events and car shows.
In less than fifty meters distance, we spotted four McLaren F1 sports cars, three of them racers and one long tail version, and historical F1 cars from Prost, Senna, Lauda and Hamilton. The amazing collection is kept driving by the original mechanics inside the MTC. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to shoot any photos, because the Formula 1 teams development team was working on their latest car in the workshop which is completely visible from the main entrance and corridors sharing the same type of cleanliness and openness as the MPC.
The McLaren premise in Woking share the true meaning of future car development and production. The combination between race heritage and development in the MTC, and the production of road-legal sports cars in the MPC make it a place you have to put on your wish list. The architecture is one-of-a-kind and gave us the feeling we just stepped out of the latest Hollywood science fiction movie. The only way you are put back onto the ground is when you experience they still make sports cars with four wheels which touch the tarmac underneath you. Other than that, McLaren Automotive offers a world you can hardly experience anywhere else in the automotive world.