You might have seen one or two driving around Dubai or Abu Dhabi, not knowing exactly what you were looking at, but the drivers of the few McLaren MP4-12Cs that are currently pounding the roads of the UAE will be in no doubt as to the engineering prowess they're fortunate enough to be enjoying. Arguably the best supercar on sale anywhere right now, McLaren's second road-going car (after the legendary F1 in the 1990s) has nothing left to prove. It really is that good.
With a showroom already open in Dubai, it was only a matter of time before Abu Dhabi had its own and, just two nights ago, the official cutting of the red ribbon was duly carried out by Sultan Al Habtoor and his young son in the presence of McLaren's and Al Habtoor Motors' biggest movers and shakers. No fireworks, no hysteria, just a low-key beginning and a celebration of what is to come, in keeping with McLaren's entire marketing strategy for its all-new range of cars, of which we'll be seeing the second model unveiled later this year.
The small, discreet new Abu Dhabi showroom is situated near the Corniche, in the Sheikha Salama building in Khalidiya and currently has on display a lone MP4-12C, as well as Lewis Hamilton's 2007 Formula One car, the MP4/22, which helps to hammer home the point that McLaren's inaugural road car has F1 technology coursing through its DNA. It prompted me to ask Anthony Sheriff, McLaren Automotive's CEO, how important the regional F1 events (Abu Dhabi and Bahrain) have been in helping to raise awareness of the road car.
"It helps, obviously," he admitted, "but so far our customers, both here in the UAE and in other GCC countries, have been well aware of what McLaren's history and heritage is all about. These people are great admirers of technology and engineering; they're some of the most demanding clients in the world and we count the UAE as one of our most important markets."
McLaren has always been at pains to point out that it isn't simply the selling process it's interested in, rather the whole ownership experience. And Sheriff continued the charm offensive in Abu Dhabi by pointing out to the assembled guests that the company has been able to start from scratch with this model range, overhauling the way things are done and reinventing the way new car dealerships operate. "Every single one of our dealers carries every single spare part for these cars, all the time," he reminded everyone. "You could build an entire new car from the spares in stock, and nobody else comes close to matching that."
Indeed, but it will take much more than that to hold the UAE's interest and keep sales healthy. So McLaren is maintaining momentum, keeping in the headlines, by rolling out a succession of new facilities. With Dubai and Abu Dhabi, as well as Kuwait City, now open for business, Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia, is due to open next week while Qatar and Bahrain are currently in the process of being finished, so it's safe to say that, with only 35 dealerships worldwide right now, the GCC is playing a significant part in McLaren's game plan.
"We expect to be selling at least 10 per cent of our cars in the GCC," Sheriff told me, "which will work out at about 150 deliveries this year. We're extremely pleased with the response." He said one third of that number will be sold in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and that Al Habtoor's reputation for customer service with Bentley in the region was a key factor in their partnership. "Nothing short of the best will do for us - it's that simple." Now, if only they could wave a magic wand and get those roadworks outside completed, we'd all be happy. McLaren, it's nice to have you with us.