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McLaren, Lotus and Lamborghini go more mainstream

By raccars Published

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Is the gap between niche and mainstream car brands narrowing as volume overtakes exclusivity?

Car manufacturers used to fit fairly neatly into a quite distinct hierarchy: mainstream car brands and niche brands. The main differences between the two were sales volumes and prices. The higher priced cars sold in lower numbers but were more expensive and exclusive. The mainstream brands were mass produced and affordable.

However the manufacturer landscape has been changing as brands such as Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover challenge the dominance of the big three German names - Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz - for premium mainstream status. And while Ferrari has committed to reducing volumes to maintain exclusivity, the likes of Lotus, Lamborghini and Porsche are expanding their model ranges to appeal to a broader consumer demographic and so allow them access to higher sales volumes. With SUVs the fastest-growing market segment, even Bentley and Rolls-Royce are adding luxury 4x4s to their line-ups.

McLaren among the fastest expanding car brands

British firm McLaren is a case in point. The Woking-based company has seen demand soar for its supercars and is hoping to double its sales. With 30 international markets buying its products, McLaren sold 1,654 units in 2015. This year it is planning to produce about 3,000 cars and hopes to reach 4,000 next year. In order to achieve this kind of volume, McLaren is increasing its range by introducing new models including a range of entry level sports cars. After years of specialising in hardcore super and hypercars, the McLaren product line-up is now separated into three tiers: the Ultimate Series, the Super Series and the Sports Series.

Demand for the P1 hypercar and the new Sports Series has already forced McLaren to take on 250 new staff and open a second shift at its Surrey plant. The Sports Series is designed to offer McLaren fans greater practicality and everyday usability without sacrificing the kind of driving dynamics and performance with which McLaren built its reputation. The company launched five new cars last year and has invested some £90 million, or about a fifth of its annual turnover, into R&D.


Meanwhile another traditionally exclusive British sports car marque, Lotus, saw sales grow by 60 per cent in 2015. Admittedly Lotus was facing considerable financial difficulty, which saw it bring a new chief exec with an ambitious brief to bring the Lotus name back to life. CEO Jean-Marc Gales is well on the way to achieving his goals, growing sales from 235 cars in 2014 to 375 last year, and appointing seven new UK dealers. Lotus once again has representation in London after being absent from the capital since 2009. There are now 16 Lotus dealerships in action in the UK and plans to open more this year.

The picture is repeated world-wide, with Lotus now available in 202 retailers globally compared to 138 in May 2014. Lotus again is using new model development to push sales, including the Elise Sport and Sport 220, the Evora 400 and the Exige Sport 350.


Overseas, Italian firm Lamborghini is taking on 500 new staff to handle production of its new SUV model, the Urus, due in 2018. This is on top of the 150 new employees who joined the company in 2015. In fact, Lamborghini has increased its workforce by 600 in the last five years. Factory space is also set to double from 80,000 square metres to 150,000 at Sant'Agata Bolognese. 2015 was a record year for Lamborghini with 3,245 sales of its Aventador and Huracan models, far exceeding 2014's previous record of 2,530.

Lamborghini is, of course, owned by The VW Group and is its second smallest subsidiary after Bugatti. The firm's CEO Stefan Winkelman sees the introduction of the Urus SUV as key to increasing sales volumes at the firm, best known for its supercars.

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