With Australian new car sales racking up their 16th consecutive month of negative growth, one would be forgiven for seeing that as a bad economic omen.
After all, car sales are often seen as the canary in the economic coal mine when it comes to gauging the financial health of the global economy. If the world’s motorists are choosing to hang onto their cars instead of trading up into something newer, then odds are there are clouds on the financial horizon.
But while there’s some metaphorical cloud cover in the form of cooling appetite for cars in China and big questions over the UK’s Brexit strategy, the world of supercars seems to be comparatively immune.
And at least one supercar manufacturer definitely isn’t sweating the future. McLaren Automotive’s managing director for the Asia-Pacific region, George Biggs, says while there’s some evidence of a broader slowdown, the longer-term outlook is good, especially as McLaren’s latest product – the less hard-edged and more pragmatic McLaren GT – has the potential to greatly expand the marque’s customer base.
“We’ve got fantastic interest in the brand, and the brand’s been growing at quite a rapid pace for the past six or seven years in Australia,” Biggs told WhichCar from the opening of McLaren’s new dealership presence in Adelaide.
“Sentiment in each market is important, and certainly sentiment hasn’t been as positive as it has been in the past couple of years.
“With McLaren, we are a carmaker, we sell transport, but we also sell more than that: we sell entertainment, we sell a passion. Therefore, for the people that we talk to about buying our cars, the short-term fluctuation in the market sentiment doesn’t necessarily affect their ability to purchase our cars."
Biggs said that the company is always keeping an eye on the prevailing economic winds.
“It’s something that we monitor consistently, but we’re not overly concerned at this point," he said. "I can only speak to McLaren and what we see, and through the last period we’ve had growth year-on-year from a global perspective, and we’ve not only had growth in terms of deliveries, but also growth in interest in the brand.”
McLaren is still a relatively new player in the Australian luxury market, but so far this year it has sold 55 cars across the country. That's two more megadollar supercars than it did this time last year, and enough to put it ten cars ahead of Italian rival Lamborghini.
And though Lamborghini sales have dropped off markedly compared to 2018, Ferrari has gained ground to sit at 147 deliveries for the first seven months of this year – an improvement of 12 cars.
Even Rolls Royce is moving more million-dollar metal this year, with 21 cars sold so far in 2019, compared to 17 cars the year prior. Real estate may be suffering, but the nation's wealthiest consumers certainly aren't turning away from 'investing' in supercars.
For McLaren, it believes its good fortunes in the showroom is linked to the breadth of its product range. The steady cadence of new cars and special editions coming from its Woking factory is resulting in increased customer traffic walking through its doors.
“The products that people are trying to get hold of and really looking for are things like the 600LT," confirmed Biggs. "That’s a limited-production model and it’s one that people are eager to get a hold of… so that’s certainly turned out to be extremely popular in Australia.
“We’re seeing continued interest in the 720S, and we’ve only just brought the 720S Spider to the market in Australia. And then we’re seeing interest in the new product that we’re bringing. We’re bringing the McLaren GT to market and launching it in Australia next month.
“That one has got people who traditionally haven’t been McLaren customers, people who have gone ‘oh, maybe [McLarens] are a bit too far-out and extreme for me’ and are now going, ‘hmm, a GT product by McLaren sounds quite interesting’. So we’re welcoming those guys in to understand a bit more about our brand."
Biggs said that pricing would be released closer to the car's launch, but indicated that it will be priced towards the Sports series.
"But while the Sports Series is very much about that sports car performance, the GT is really about driving a long distance, very much about providing comfort along with the driver engagement levels that you would expect from a McLaren,” he said.
Biggs says that slight change in ethos will mark a corresponding change in buyer profile, as well. With the McLaren GT expected to pull some customers away from other Grand Tourers like the Ferrari Portofino or the Aston Martin DB11, the type of buyer McLaren hopes to attract will be more accustomed to hanging out at the country club than the race track.
“The GT will move our brand to a slightly different position – a position that we’re still comfortable within since it’s still about driver enjoyment – but something which is a little bit different to what we’ve done before,” he said.