McLaren boss says UK could be electric supercar ‘centre of excellence’

The CEO of McLaren Automotive believes that the UK could be a leading player in the electric supercar world, if it can attract the right investment in powertrain development.

Michael Leiters said that the country’s rich heritage in motorsport and sports car production gives it a ‘golden opportunity’ to take a lead on electric performance cars but warned that the domestic supply chain is not currently equipped to deal with the unique demands of the sector.

Ahead of the General Election, Leiters called for whoever formed the next government to provide a strategic roadmap for investment in future powertrain technologies.

He said: “The UK was once the world’s largest vehicle exporter. Today it remains home to some of the world’s most admired performance car brands, as well as the majority of Formula 1 racing teams.

“We must harness the skills, knowledge and ingenuity of the UK motorsport and performance car industry to create a global, high-performance centre of excellence.

“A clear industrial strategy, led by investment in the domestic supply chain, will deliver growth, support jobs, help decarbonise the economy and secure a vibrant future for the UK performance car industry.”

Leiters said government support was essential in order to “de-risk” the transition to electrification.

“The costs of this technological shift are astronomical, especially for low-volume, highly-specialised suppliers,” he said.

“Today, customer demand for electric supercars remains extremely low as the technology is not sufficiently mature to rival the performance of today’s hybrid and combustion engine offerings, which makes it a risky investment both for OEMs and their suppliers.

“But we have an opportunity to invest in next-generation, high power-dense battery cell manufacturing and ensure the UK is at the forefront of future performance car powertrain technology.

“Even hybrid vehicles, which we expect will account for the majority of supercars sold throughout this decade, require the need to locally-source high-performance battery technology due to the EU ‘rules of origin’ requirements on exported vehicles.”

Leiters revealed that the hybrid McLaren Artura powertrain currently has 64% UK content but if it were a pure EV, that would drop to 13% because the marque cannot source the relevant componentry in the UK.

He argued that government investment in high-tech powertrains represented ‘an excellent return on investment for taxpayers’ due to the prestige and high value of exported UK-based luxury and performance cars. He said this meant the productivity gross value added of McLaren employees was 51% higher than that of the UK automotive manufacturing sector as a whole.

He also claimed that attracting the right battery suppliers to the UK would also bring long-term benefits outside the performance car industry.

“In the future, a thriving UK supply-chain specialising in cutting-edge, high energy density cells would not only support supercar production but also other advanced manufacturing needs such as vertical take-off aircraft and drones,” he noted.

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Matt Allan

Matt is Editor of EV Powered. He has worked in journalism for more than 20 years and been an automotive journalist for the last decade, covering every aspect of the industry, from new model reveals and reviews to consumer and driving advice. The former motoring editor of, The Scotsman and National World, Matt has watched the EV landscape transform beyond recognition over the last 10 years and developed a passion for electric vehicles and what they mean for the future of transport - from the smallest city cars to the biggest battery-powered trucks. When he’s not driving or writing about electric cars, he’s figuring out how to convert his classic VW camper to electric power.