Formula One car maker McLaren unveiled plans on Thursday to build a range of commercial sports cars in Britain, using race technology to take on other high-end European manufacturers such as Ferrari and Porsche on the highways.
McLaren is banking on renewed spending after the global economic downturn to bolster demand for its first offering, the MP4-12C, which will go on sale in late 2011 with a hefty price tag of between 125,000 ($191,127) and 150,000 pounds ($227,188).
The company's leap into the commercial market is part of its long-running strategy to build revenues by moving away from a single-minded focus on the financially fickle world of Formula One racing.
"Following any recession, there's a resurgence," McLaren Automotive Chairman Ron Dennis said at the company's headquarters — and new factory site — in Woking, south of London. "We intend to catch that wave."
"Our volumes are very much linked to how we see the recovery," he added.
The company aims to make up to 1,000 of the 12C cars next year, with up to 40 percent being sold in North America.
New models will launch annually with production forecast to reach around 4,000 by the middle of the decade, but McLaren Automative Managing Director Antony Sheriff said that the company had no ambition to become the biggest manufacturer in the market.
"Although we're investing hundreds of millions of pounds into these cars, we have no desire at all to be the biggest sports car manufacturer," Sheriff said. "In fact, we take great pride in being one of the most exclusive, and aim to keep it that way."
Dennis said said that McLaren has the pedigree to support its entry into the commercial arena, saying it was encouraged to do so by "frightening statistics," such as the fact that 101 Formula One teams have vanished since McLaren started on the circuit in 1966.
"To stay solely and exclusively a Formula One team is almost going to surely lead to extinction," he said, noting the company had already successfully moved into electronics, applied technology and marketing.
Funding for the 40-million pound production facility at its current headquarters in Woking, creating 300 direct jobs, has come from McLaren Automotive<s existing shareholders and it is in final negotiations with an investor to buy a 48 percent stake of the company to fund future production.
Dennis said that he expected to announce the investment deal within the next three months, but declined to name the buyer.
Sheriff declined to go into detail on anticipated turnover, but said the company should be profitable in four or five years.
This is not the first time McLaren has built a road car, but it is the first time the company has made its own vehicle in the "core sports car" market.
Only 107 of the company's first road car, the McLaren F1, were built 15 years ago, of which 64 were road cars and the rest racing cars.
The 12C, which was test-driven earlier this month by Formula One world champion Jenson Button and his McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton, is based on the MonoCell or "tub" structure, making it the first offered to the public with a lightweight one-piece carbon-fiber structure.
It also incorporates F1 technology including brake steering and air brakes.
The company plans to keep working on the car over the next year before it goes into full production to improve its current performance statistics: acceleration from zero to 200 kilometers in under 10 seconds, braking from 200 kms to zero in under five second and a top speed of more than 200 miles per hour.