First, there was the Porsche Cayenne. When it debuted in 2002, fans were furious because it was considered unacceptable for a sportscar maker to dip its toe into the highly lucrative SUV world.

But guess what? The critics later realized that in order to keep making the beloved 911, Porsche needed to make money, and the Cayenne–later the Macan, too–was the solution. Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Lotus and even Ferrari followed suit with their own interpretations of “non-an-SUV” and now McLaren is about to do the same.

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The SUV-not-SUV game

A couple of years ago, McLaren's previous CEO, Mike Flewitt, said the British-based supercar maker would never make an SUV. Now, though, under the helm of ex-Ferrari exec Michael Leiters, things will change.

Known globally for its numerous racing wins, as well as for the record-setting 30-year-old McLaren F1, the Woking-based British automaker is in a bit of a financial pickle. Even though you may have seen several Youtubers flaunting their 540, 720 and more recently Artura supercars online, the company that got its name from New Zealand-bord Bruce McLaren lost more than half a million dollars per car last year, according to Road & Track, who sat down with the company’s CEO Michael Leiters about what’s next.

Even though it’s been in business for over three decades, losing so much money per vehicle is beyond the imagination of even new startups, but Leiters has several solutions to turn things around.

The first is to limit the number of cars that roll off the assembly line. McLarens are exclusive supercars, known for their low weight and sensational handling, but even with 2,137 cars sold worldwide in 2023, the automaker’s CEO said they need to cut back to keep residual values high. An identical approach is used by Ferrari, and it seems to work wonders for the Italian brand.

Another solution to get McLaren out of the financial slump is to get into the SUV space. But, just like Ferrari, Rolls-Royce and Lotus, don’t expect to see the SUV acronym anywhere near McLaren’s future supercar on stilts.

5 Years of the McLaren P1

The 2013 P1 was McLaren's first plug-in hybrid

“To unlock our full potential as a company, we believe there is a second stage, to enlarge and expand our lineup beyond the segment where we are today,” Leiters said for Road & Track. “We have called this ‘shared performance,’ because you can share the performance with more people than you can have in a McLaren today.”

In other words, you’ll need to wrap your head around yet another automotive moniker–SPV, or Shared Performance Vehicle. In the case of McLaren, the SUV-that’s-not-an-SUV will likely use a plug-in hybrid powertrain, either with a V-6 or V-8 engine under the hood.

Another possibility is for the British automaker to team up with a bigger car company to shove its hybrid setup into an existing platform. Leiters didn’t say what that automaker may be, but Road & Track theorized that BMW might be a worthy candidate, seeing how it dabbled with McLaren in the past and it has a ready-made high-performance, hybridized platform in the form of the XM.

2023 McLaren Artura interior

The 2023 McLaren Artura uses the company's latest chassis and PHEV tech that includes an axial flux e-motor

That said, McLaren is all about lightness, and the BMW XM is anything but light, weighing a hefty 6,200 pounds. According to Leiters, however, the Woking supercar maker could use its expertise to make whatever platform lighter. “The core attribute of a McLaren is lightweight. We have world-class competence we could bring into a partnership, even talking about structural elements of a platform,” McLaren’s CEO added.

Pricing-wise, the British automaker’s plug-in SPV would be closer to a Ferrari Purosangue and Rolls-Royce Cullinan rather than the Lamborghini Urus and Bentley Bentayga. That suggests a price tag of around $400,000.

Besides dabbling in the SUV segment, McLaren is also working on its first-ever all-electric supercar that has a target weight of just 3,300 lbs. Referring to the likes of the Rimac Nevera, Pininfarina Battista and Lotus Evija, Leiters said that his definition of a supercar is based on weight, not just performance.

“For me, a supercar that weighs two tons is no supercar,” he said. “It is easy to have a better power output to increase the performance. This is longitudinal performance if you like. Acceleration. But the better question is, what is the lateral performance? You cannot deliver that if the weight is too high.”

Shots fired, we’d say.

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