x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Race is on as McLaren pursues Ferrari in showroom

McLaren Automotive launched its first sports car in the Middle East last night, going head to head with Ferrari.

McLaren-Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain leads Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso of Spain in the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka on October 9, 2011. Alonso finished the race in second place. AFP PHOTO/Toru YAMANAKA
McLaren-Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain leads Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso of Spain in the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka on October 9, 2011. Alonso finished the race in second place. AFP PHOTO/Toru YAMANAKA

It is not only in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that McLaren and Ferrari will go bumper to bumper this weekend.

McLaren launched its first high-performance sports car in the Middle East last night and plans to rapidly expand its retail presence in the region.

But the British car brand has some way to go to catch up with its Italian competitor, as Ferrari yesterday reported accelerating sales across the Middle East.

"Of course they [Ferrari] are our competition," said Greg Levine, the global sales and marketing director for McLaren. "But I do believe that there's sufficient space in the market. We can grow together as brands."

In partnership with Al Habtoor Motors, McLaren has opened a showroom in Dubai and hopes to expand to Abu Dhabi, Doha, Jeddah, Kuwait and Bahrain by the end of March.

McLaren's MP4-12C sports car is now on sale, and Mr Levine hopes to offload 100 cars next year, as well as add a model in each of the next two years.

The MP4-12C costs Dh905,000 (US$246,379), which compares with the starting price for a Ferrari California of Dh770,000 and the 458 Italia model at Dh910,000.

"We will have more expensive and more affordable versions of different cars [than the MP4-12C]," Mr Levine said. "But we will absolutely stay in sports cars."

Ferrari yesterday announced record sales of €1.6 million (Dh8m) for the first nine months of the year, an increase of 18.9 per cent on the same period last year.

The Middle East was one of the fastest-growing regions globally for Ferrari in the period, with a 23 per cent expansion.

McLaren aims to globally leverage the brand, built from a history of racing dating to 1964.

The MP4-12C first went on sale in July in Europe, followed by South Africa and now the Middle East. Mr Levine hopes to launch in the US next, followed by the Asia-Pacific region and aims to have an initial global network of 35 retailers in 19 countries.

The Middle East and Africa are expected to make up 10 to 15 per cent of total sales once the brand is established.

"My vision is such a simple one," Mr Levine said. "If you ask a child in a playground in the Middle East what car they want when they grow up, they will say a Ferrari or a Lamborghini. In 10 years' time, I want them to say McLaren."

rjones@thenational.ae

twitter: Follow our breaking business news and retweet to your followers. Follow us