Friday, September 7, 2018

News: More to come from McLaren?

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The level of support received by McLaren since announcing it was investing in a new production facility in Rotherham could lead to the British car manufacturer bringing more projects to the Sheffield city region (SCR).

A £50m investment has been made in developing and manufacturing the future of lightweighting technology with the soon to-open McLaren Composites Technology Centre (MCTC) on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham.

And the man leading on the new centre has spoken in glowing terms on the financial backing, support and professionalism encountered in the region.

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Speaking at Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber's Chamber Means Business event this week, Ken Smart, project director for the McLaren Composites Technology Centre (MCTC) (pictured at the chamber event, second left), said that the company had initially been surprised by the high levels of professionalism and business acumen in local government and praised partners at the Sheffield city region, Sheffield City Council and Rotherham Council who worked to land the high profile inward investment.

Evidence comes from the £12m commitment from the city region's "Unlocking Business Investment" programme and the swift approval of the planning application for the new facility.

McLaren recently took the keys for the new 75,000 sq ft facility that will enable the development and manufacture of the Monocell and Monocage carbon fibre chassis used in future McLaren models.

Smart discussed the reasons for McLaren choosing to locate only its second ever production facility and the first outside its native Woking, in the SCR. He said: "The McLaren Technology Centre (MTC) in Woking is a wonderful building but it is just too small for our planned expansion. Added to that, there's not enough people in that area who want to be engineers.

"We made the decision two years ago to bring back carbon fibre production to the UK and we chose this region as we were looking for a labour pool containing the technical skills we need. Having the two universities here was important.

"Secondly, working with the AMRC [the University of Sheffield's partnership between industry and academia] meant that we could try out new methods of production. The centre has all the equipment, bought with public money, and so we didn't have to take the risk of buying the equipment and our ideas not being possible.

"Thankfully they are, and in March the first carbon fibre "tubs" were produced at the AMRC. The unique kit, specifically designed for us, is now being installed in our factory."

The Rotherham facility is due to be fully operational in 2020 when the current team of 45 will have grown to around 200 people. Smart apologised that McLaren won't be showing anyone around inside the facility. "We can't give away the crown jewels," he said.

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The fastest growing luxury automotive brand in the UK recently revealed an updated and expanded £1.2bn business plan and has upped its production targets to reach 6,000 mid-engined sportscars and supercars a year by 2025. It registered 390 vehicles in the first half of 2018.

Smart added: "We are already looking at what else we can do in the region, and what we do is high tech. Now we are here, and with all we've experienced, we are here to stay.

"I'd be very surprised if there wasn't more to come."

Chamber Means Business is an annual exhibition which has been put together to give member businesses the opportunity to promote themselves and their products and services. This year it was held at the AESSEAL New York Stadium.

McLaren Automotive website

Images: McLaren / BR Chamber

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