The fact that 40% of the MP4-12C units that McLaren has produced were bought in the U.S. is a surprise. But more so to McLaren Automotive boss Antony Sheriff who had warned the company that it might not do so well in the U.S. As of February, McLaren had built 1,000 units of the MP4-12C. Sheriff knows quite a bit about the issue since he has been working in Europe for numerous years.
He was born in the U.S. and grew up there, later getting engineering and economics from Swarthmore College before starting his career as a product planner for Chrysler in 1987. At the Geneva show, he revealed that as a kid, his friends in the U.S. didn’t know McLaren and would certainly never wake up at 6 am to watch Formula 1 with him on ESPN.
Most of the racing fans weren’t too crazy about the sport and would engage in it during the weekend or would just go to a few IndyCar races. He also said that the popularity of the Bruce and Denny show has passed by then. He was referring to Can-Am series of the late ’60s founded by Bruce McLaren and Denis Hulme, who made the thundering orange McLaren M8 sports racers legendary.
So that’s why McLaren planners were cautious on their sales estimate for the MP4-12C in the U.S. Sheriff wasn’t sure if the McLaren is famous enough to get the attention of buyers from the Ferraris and Lamborghinis.
Sheriff said that he, along with the company, underestimated how much Americans know about the brand and how many of them were fans. Anyone who test-drives the MP4-12C would be impressed with its twin-turbo V-8, the chassis’ responsiveness, and the outstanding ride quality. It’s arguable whether a Ferrari 458 is better but being compared to the benchmark Ferrari already speaks volumes.