A day with McLaren boss Mike Flewitt
Source : A day with McLaren boss Mike Flewitt
Mike Flewitt, McLaren Automotive CEO in addition to also true car guy, is actually evolving the brand. We spend a day with him
In another life, Mike Flewitt, boss of McLaren Automotive, helped to dismantle a large part of Britain’s car manufacturing industry.
In his previous job as Ford’s vice-president of manufacturing, he came to believe generating smaller cars inside the UK might never be viable in addition to also helped to take the decision to end the item. “I didn’t enjoy the item,” he says of terminating car manufacturing in Dagenham, “although I knew the item had to happen.”
Life is actually different right now. Flewitt loved his time at Ford – in addition to also prior stints at TWR in addition to also Rolls-Royce – although building a brand new family of McLarens is actually a better gig. Things are going well, too. Drafted in as COO halfway through 2012 to fix problems with the 12C (“a brilliant base car whose details weren’t where they should be”), Flewitt became CEO after a year.
Last year McLaren Automotive sold 1649 cars (up 18%) in addition to also posted its second consecutive profit, a fine performance for a company just four years old. So far This specific year McLaren has launched a pair of volume-boosting Sports Series types, the 540C in addition to also 570S, in addition to also revealed a limited-edition, extra-performance 675 LT (for Long Tail).
Another notable indicator of progress, though, has come by the coterie of well-heeled supercar owners who keep broadcasting how much Flewitt has done to turn austere, secretive McLaren into a customer-focused concern with an open house – which is actually one reason why, on a Tuesday morning, I’m in our 8000-mile 650S, heading for Silverstone.
8.00am – The mission is actually to meet Flewitt at one of the ‘Pure McLaren’ track days staged regularly for prospective customers in addition to also existing owners who want to drive better. This specific one is actually a three-day production. Flewitt came yesterday in addition to also will be here tomorrow. I’ll spend the morning here in addition to also then accompany him in addition to also his wife to London to attend a dinner inside the brand new Zealand embassy to welcome a brand new Auckland University project to invoke the name of Bruce McLaren to inspire young Kiwi innovators.
8.30am – Fretting about slow traffic although marvelling at the McLaren’s limo-like ride. inside the 650S, there’s a complete disconnect between its pliant bump absorption in addition to also its near-perfect Centeng control. The steering, hydraulically power assisted, feels more ‘natural’ than the unassisted system in my Lotus Elise at home. As you drive, you can feel how many engineer-hours have gone into This specific
9.45am – Silverstone at last. “Are you Steve?” asks a cheerful McLaren-liveried bloke inside the paddock, finding my name on his list. Another McLaren pulls alongside in addition to also its occupant gets the same brand of brisk friendliness. We’re directed to an inspection station where technicians check our tyres, do a visual check in addition to also clean our screens. Then we’re directed to park in one of the pit garages normally occupied by Formula 1 drivers.
9.55am – Over the partition inside the bay next door, things aren’t as I expect. This specific is actually no garage. McLaren’s event organisers have transformed the place into a spacious, modern lounge area with comfortable sofas, armchairs, tables, video screens, bars, drinks in addition to also nibbles.
There are desks with screens that will help you examine the telemetry traces by your own driving (everyone gets expert help to compare his or her performance using a well-driven example) in addition to also there’s even a sit-in driving game offering the chance to ‘Beat Bruno’. The second Senna, right now on McLaren’s team, is actually on hand to drive in addition to also mingle.
10.15am – Flewitt has been here for a couple of hours, although everyone wants a piece of him. He has driven early in addition to also still wears his race suit. His slim build in addition to also medium height make him one of an exceptionally smaller number of car company bosses who look Great in racing gear.
smaller wonder: for Flewitt, racing is actually a weekend hobby. He shares a classic Lotus Elan with his Swedish wife, Mia, a former Volvo engineer whom he met when both worked on the TWR-Volvo Autonova joint venture. She’s retired right now. Her last engineering project was the first-generation Renault Clio V6, created by TWR.
Mia comes to these events For 2 reasons: she is actually exceptionally handy behind the wheel in addition to also “just loves” driving the 675 LT, plus her presence always improves the ambience for women who might otherwise feel uncomfortable at events like This specific.
11.00am – Flewitt in addition to also I are supposed to be talking, although the item’s almost more fun watching him at work. He sees the job as meeting, chatting, driving, explaining, confiding – although never selling.
He explains: “We do these days for prospective customers in addition to also for existing owners who won’t yet have seen the 570S or the 675 LT. They come strictly because they want to. Nobody needs a McLaren, although events like these enthuse customers. We promote the experience of driving fast – responsibly – although there’s no macho atmosphere in addition to also no arrogance. We do things professionally, although that will doesn’t mean they have to be formal or overly competitive.”
11.30am – Something I say suggests these events are local to McLaren. Flewitt makes the item clear how wrong This specific is actually. They’ve done Spa in addition to also the Nürburgring, of course, in addition to also there’ll be a Barcelona event soon. although the Middle Eastern F1 circuits are becoming well-liked, in addition to also Flewitt tells me of an extraordinary event in China where 30 of the 38 P1s sold to Chinese owners turned up.
11.40am – There’s a shattering roar as chief test driver Chris Goodwin fires up his 1966 McLaren M1B, brought along as a live exhibit. The Pure McLaren days tend to feature unusual, inspirational exhibits. Not long ago, a member of This specific community brought his ex-Mika Häkkinen F1 car.
Goodwin plans to race his M1B at Goodwood in a few days’ time, so a shakedown is actually handy. the item is actually McLaren’s first-ever CanAm car, beaten to the title by John Surtees in a Lola T70. Later CanAm McLarens might dominate so much that will the competition might become ‘The Bruce in addition to also Denny Show’ – in addition to also then in 1970, one of them might claim Bruce McLaren’s life.
12.00pm – Time for lunch. Mike in addition to also Mia Flewitt, Senna, Goodwin in addition to also all the driver coaches sit among us punters, sharing talk of the morning’s excitement plus a nice although unpretentious buffet. One bloke, the former owner of a Porsche Carrera GT, talks of testing the 918 Spyder in addition to also not liking the item, so he bought a P1. Which is actually why he’s here. Like me, This specific man has two arms, two eyes in addition to also parts his hair on the left; why can’t we have similar buying power?
1.30pm – I’m delighted to become Flewitt’s excuse for a few laps inside the 675 LT. He strokes the auto around at chastening speed, feeding the loads in in addition to also out rather than banging the auto about. the item doesn’t need the item, he says.
Flewitt seems totally on top of the auto to me, although he cheerfully concedes “real ability” to his wife, who has discovered a rare skill at conducting 675bhp supercars. We get into an esoteric discussion about whether This specific one is actually better with its aero bits deployed or not. With them working, the item’s stable although feels rather heavy. If you don’t use them, the item’s lighter at the rear in addition to also more adjustable, which is actually the way, I divine, Great drivers prefer the item.
3pm-6.30pm – We take Flewitt’s personal BMW M5 to a nearby hotel to don clothing suitable for an embassy reception, in addition to also then set out, the three of us, into central London inside the back of a Volkswagen Transporter. The traffic is actually awful, although we still arrive at brand new Zealand House in plenty of time to view the famous McLaren ‘father in addition to also son’ Austin Seven special parked inside the foyer in addition to also be conveyed to the top-floor penthouse, with its commanding views.
8pm-10.30pm – I feel honoured to join a gathering of about 80 people that will includes Bruce McLaren’s widow, his sister in addition to also a group of devoted friends. We are given a fine meal in addition to also listen to affectionate speeches – by ambassador Sir Lockwood Smith, Flewitt, a representative of Auckland University in addition to also Bruce’s old friend in addition to also racing associate, Howden Ganley.
Everyone’s theme is actually the same: the more you knew of Bruce, the modest leader, the greater he seemed as a driver, engineer in addition to also person. To a room full of venerable people, Bruce’s death at 32 is actually very sobering – notwithstanding his comment about life being “measured in achievement, not years alone”. I wander quietly home through London’s streets, although there’s no such relaxation for the Flewitts. They’re into the minivan again, due at Silverstone tomorrow. The demands of the customers will start early.
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