July 9, 2013 2:01 pm

McLaren ramps up Asian dealer network

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A McLaren MP4-12C is shown on Feb. 20, 2012. The car starts at $231,000. Photographer: Morgan J. Segal/McLaren via Bloomberg EDITOR'S NOTE: NO SALES. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.

McLaren Automotive, the British maker of sports cars, plans to have 13 dealerships in Asia by the end of this year as part of an aggressive drive into a region with the fastest-growing number of wealthy potential buyers.

The plans are a sign that an economic slowdown across much of the region is not deterring makers of luxury and sports vehicles, which are eyeing its growing ranks of wealthy entrepreneurs.

HSBC on Tuesday cut its forecast for growth in the region, excluding Japan, from 7.2 per cent to 6.1 per cent, and for next year from 7.2 per cent to 6.5 per cent.

McLaren nonetheless believes that the share of its global sales from Asia will jump to 25 per cent this year, from 10 per cent last year.

The company recently won approval from authorities in China to open its first dealerships in the country, a market that McLaren hopes will double its total Asia sales this year.

Mirko Bordiga, the carmaker’s Asia-Pacific regional director, said that in addition to the dealerships – due to open in September in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing and Chengdu – McLaren planned a further four by 2014.

The carmaker has been rapidly building its dealer network in Asia since opening its first in the region last year, in Singapore. Since then it has opened dealerships in Tokyo, Osaka, Hong Kong, Sydney and, last month, Taipei.

Mr Bordiga said a further two would open in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur by around September. They are part of a wave of Asian dealership openings that cap a two-year effort to expand McLaren’s brand beyond Formula One racing and into sports cars sold globally.

That effort started in 2011 with the opening of McLaren’s first London showroom. By the end of this year the Surrey-based company, part owned by Peter Lim, a Singapore billionaire and Formula One enthusiast, aims to have around 50 dealerships around the world in total. It plans to sell 1,400 units this year.

Mr Bordiga said that while the US remained McLaren’s largest market by sales, Asia was growing rapidly as sports car enthusiasts had a more sophisticated appreciation of vehicles than eight years ago when he first worked in the region.

“The markets in Asia are not so immature any more. Wealthy people really know what they are buying,” he said.

Rival carmaker Ferrari has sold cars in China since 2004 and is present in 11 markets in Asia.

Mr Bordiga said that McLaren was not “racing against Ferrari” but conceded that while many people in Asia had heard of McLaren through Formula One, “the reality is they are not yet familiar with the fact that we produce high-technology road cars”.

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