McLaren finds niche for $400,000-plus cars in struggling Brazil

August 21, 2018 19:24 CET

SAO PAULO — The McLaren dealership here — more art gallery than car showroom — opened in May and has already reached half of its first year’s sales goal.

While that doesn’t seem hard to do with a target of just 20 supercars in the first 12 months, when you consider price tags of between $410,000 and $3.9 million and an economy that’s not exactly humming along, it’s pretty darn good.

“It’s a low-volume company that makes 3,500 cars a year, so if Brazil eventually sells 30 cars it’s a pretty good number,” said to Henry Visconde, owner of Eurobike, which represents McLaren in Brazil and also sells Audi, Porsche, BMW, Jaguar and Land Rover brands. It’s a limited, if “loyal, audience.”

Brazil’s Grupo Eurobike is representing McLaren Automotive Limited in Sao Paulo’s exclusive Vila Olimpia neighborhood, where a 540C going for 1.6 million reais ($410,000), and its more expensive sibling the 570GT, at 1.9 million reais ($476,000), are on display. Those prices are almost triple what they sell for in the U.K.

The goal after year one is to increase sales by 10 percent annually, Visconde said. Of the nine McLaren cars sold to date. Every vehicle is hand-assembled in Woking, Surrey, England.

McLaren Automotive, founded in 2010, is present in 31 countries at more than 85 retailers, and it’s planning to reach 100 retailers by 2025, the company said in an email.

“Brazil is an important market for McLaren in terms of its market potential but also our history with Ayrton Senna and our relationship with Bruno Senna, the Senna family and the Senna Foundation,” the company said, referring to the race car driver who won all three of his World Championships in McLarens. “Our latest Ultimate Series model, the McLaren Senna, even carries his name.”

Visconde invested $1 million in the Sao Paulo store, and another $300,000 is going into marketing, events and online media to sway buyers.

It’s not the easiest of times to sell luxury, or anything for that matter. Visconde says that Brazil’s instability and exchange rate volatility has made some customers hold off until the real strengthens.

“The first car we brought, the 570 Coupe was retailed for 1.7 million reais [$426,000]. Today, about 4 months after, to assemble the same car, costs almost 2 million reais [$501,000],” he said.

The real was the second-worst performing emerging-market currency in the second quarter, with only the Argentine peso faring worse, as election uncertainty and cuts to growth forecasts weighed on sentiment.

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