McLaren, the grand prix powerhouse, is aiming at Porsche as it cuts the starting price for its supercars in Australia.
A new McLaren called the 570S has just been previewed at $408,000 as a competitor for the 911 Turbo S. An even cheaper new model, the $350,000 540C, will be pitched against the 911 Turbo.
McLaren is also about to open a new Australian dealership on the Gold Coast.
The newcomers are part of a three-tier strategy by which the British brand aims to double its sales within 18 months thanks to the latest Sport series cars. The other tiers are Ultimate and Super.
It's trumpeting the sellout success of its $4 million P1 GTR, a track-only version of its P1 hybrid superstar, and the latest 575LT.
The Sports models — which still sprint to 100km/h in about 3.0 seconds and go beyond 300km/h — have the breakthrough potential.
"These are the cars that will more than double our current volume," says McLaren Automotive global sales and marketing chief Jolyon Nash.
"In price point, they are positioned against 911 turbo and Turbo S. But in terms of character, they are as similar as a Porsche 918 and our P1."
McLaren struggled at first, he concedes, because its original road car, the MP4 12C, did not have as much character as the rival Ferrari 458 Italia.
"We've learnt through customer feedback that they wanted more of a visceral feel to the cars. So, yes, our cars have become more emotive and a little more involving.
"The thing we focus on doing is giving (buyers) the McLaren experience. Once you've driven the car, if you're really in the market, then there is a pretty good chance you will buy it." McLaren Automotive posted its second year of profit after its start-up in 2011. In the current year the investment in future models — the "lifeblood" of the marque, as Nash describes it — will exceed $250 million.
Nash says production of the 570S and 540C (the names reflecting the horsepower of their turbo 3.8-litre V8s, respectively 420kW and 397kW) will begin in October. Australian deliveries should start before the end of the year.
"We are still a very young company. We really have to launch our Sports series and ensure it is properly entrenched in the market," Nash says. "The intention is to bring a new audience of customers to McLaren. That's really where our focus is going to be."
The mid-engined newcomers have carbon-fibre chassis and race-style construction, with superior cabin trim and ample opportunities for customising.
Nash says the order bank "takes us well into next year" but production will be no higher than 3000 vehicles. There are no plans for an SUV, as other prestige sports makes have done.
"Our intention is always to be exclusive," he says. "We don't plan to sell more than 4000 cars in a year, at the most. Of those, 2500 will be Sports series and 1400 or 1500 will be others."