One of the better known Car Influencers, Doug DeMuro, recently did a video titled “McLaren Has Too Many Special Cars”. A number of people have sent me the video and asked me if I he has a point. To be able to properly answer that question, I had to sit down and actually watch the video, all 14 minutes and 20 seconds. It’s basically a well tossed fact-salad spewed back at the viewer. Before getting to the question on if he actually has a point, I thought it first might be worth going back and looking at the actual facts and comparing what McLaren has done vs. its closest competitive set since McLaren first started delivering cars to customers in 2011. To keep things simple, I will only include road cars and not consider convertible/spider versions as separate models.
Given we have owned quite a few McLarens in the past decade, I am quite familiar with their portfolio and a bit of the background on its evolution.
Which amounts to a total of 16 models. Of the 16 McLaren models, 2 started off as bespoke special projects which were requested by customers, 6 are base models that any customer could order, one Special Series Car (600LT) did not have a preset production cap. and the remaining 7 are limited edition models which were normally offered only to McLaren’s best customers. Of the limited edition Specials, the production numbers are 675LT – 1000, 765LT – 765, MSO HS – 25, 620R – 350 and for the Ultimate Series P1 – 375, Senna – 500, Elva -149. The total of all these limited production run cars is: 3,164. On the Special Commissions, there are 106 Speedtails and 15 Sabres.
In the past decade Ferrari has vastly increased the size of its portfolio. In terms of the part that competes most directly with McLaren, the V8 range (I am including the front engine V8s as they compete for the same buyer as the 570 Series McLarens) and Limited Edition Cars, Ferrari has sold the following:
For a total of 14 models. Outside of the base models, Ferrari has officially produced a total of 710 LaFerraris, 499 Monzas, and 3,499 Speciales, and 3,500 Pistas for an official total of 8,208 cars. Of the Ferrari Special Commision Cars, 10 F60 Americas, 10 J50s, and 6 Sergios were produced.
For Aston the relevant models would be:
For a total of 15 models. I haven’t added up the production number for each of the Aston Martins as a rough estimate would put it in line with McLarens. I am also ignoring the Continuation Series cars as I don’t believe they are particularly relevant to the discussion. The “paint job specials” such as the DBS Concorde Edition also don’t count as it’s the same base car, just with a unique spec (what a DBS and the Corcorde have in common other than very dated electronics also escapes me).
So going back to the question of does McLaren have to many models, the total number of models is very much in line with what both Ferrari and Aston Martin have done in the same time period. In fact, both Ferrari and Aston Martin have sold more models during that last decade than McLaren as I didn’t count models Ferrari & Aston launched prior to 2011 but sold in 2011 and thereafter. Looking specifically at the “Special” models, its 10 for McLaren and 8 for Ferrari and 8 for Aston Martin. Is this too many models? In my personal opinion yes, but that holds across the board. This isn’t a new issue though and quite a few of us have given that feedback to all the manufacturers going back several years now. In McLaren’s defense, I do know they have taken that feedback and there are no more Ultimate Series Limited Edition cars planned until 2025.
Going back to the video, the real issue for DeMuro isn’t the number of “Special” models but rather it seems to be the number of units produced of these “Special” models. DeMuro seems to believe that it is mostly speculators that buy these cars to flip. Too many “Special” cars therefore results in market saturation so there is little to no immediate value appreciation and the profit pool evaporates (scarcity and the need to have the “new new thing”, drives a lot of the initial value appreciation). On part of this point, I have to agree, the hypercar market is overly saturated and has been so for quite so time (see: Hypercar Market Saturation: Too Much of a Good Thing). There are simply too many manufacturers pushing too many cars to the same group of customers. When you look at total production numbers though, its Ferrari who has been the worst offender as they have built more than twice as many “Special” models as McLaren.
I do not concur that the majority of the buyers are speculators, most of the ones I know buy these cars to use, appreciate, and enjoy (see: Low Mileage Tyranny). Longer term, I do believe it’s in the best interests of the manufacturers to get these cars into the hands of true enthusiasts who are far more likely to remain long term loyal customers than speculators that are only in it to make a fast buck. Ford got it mostly right with the two year lock down on customers selling there GTs, but Ford should also have added a 2,000 mileage minimum to make sure the cars also got used (Ford GT). If actions like these drive the speculators out of the market, personally I would applaud it. Cars should be used and enjoyed, not turned into high value commodities where lack of usage actually increases value. If you want to speculate on cars, the stock market offers plenty of opportunities (Aston Martin – AML.L, Ferrari – RACE) does not require garage space or maintenance and has near instant liquidity. It can also be a much better investment. If you bought a LaFerrari new in 2015, you paid around $1.4 mil. Based on the last couple of auctions, that LaFerrari is worth $2.2 mil. If you bought $1.4 mil. worth of Ferrari shares at the IPO in 2015, those shares would be worth $5.7 mil. and unlike a LaFerrari, those shares definitely haven’t needed a battery replacement.
So, does McLaren make too many “Special” models? Not if you look at it based on McLaren’s competitive set. The total number of both all McLaren models and “Special” McLaren models built in the last decade is in line with both Ferrari and Aston Martin. Looking just at production numbers though, McLaren has built less than half the number of units of “Special” cars in the last decade as Ferrari. Where there is a very real issue though, it’s with the industry. There are simply too many manufacturers today trying to sell too many units of $1 mil. plus cars. This is what’s driving the market saturation. If there is a silver lining in all this though, perhaps the market saturation will finally drive out the majority of the speculators and convince them to go back to buying stocks.
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