Interview with McLaren’s George Biggs: “The driver is at the heart and centre of what we want to do"
The sun is setting across Singapore, and we are seated at Spago at the very top of Marina Bay Sands. The view is unbeatable, the tunes are pumping, and we're toasting to the end of the day with much-deserved cocktails. I'm seated with George Biggs, managing director of McLaren Asia Pacific, who looks every bit the part (alongside a cracking sense of humour).
The McLaren story has always been inspiring, with its dedication to excellence and innovation. After it re-launched as a standalone manufacturer in 2010, the company unveiled the 12C in 2011 and the Spider model in 2012. A business plan was later introduced to release a car or model every year — which brought forth the 650S in Coupé and Spider models in 2014, and in 2015, a new Sports Series, which includes the 570S and 540C. This year, the Asia-Pacific launch of the 720S Spider was held in Singapore — with a new chassis, engine, and sleek dihedral doors to boot.
As the year comes to a close, Biggs recaps the heart behind the McLaren driving experience, a peek into the future of all-electric supercars, and the gleaming machine we should set our sights on.
THE HUMAN CONNECTION
Here's the key to the McLaren driving experience.
George Biggs (GB): We want to really focus on the human element of driving. While we do deliver great driving experiences through technology, that starts first and foremost with the human. "What does the driver want from this car? How do they want to feel when they're in the car? What does the driver want to be able to see?" When we ask ourselves these questions, it puts the driver at the heart and centre of what we want to do. It's never about the product being king and fitting the driver in afterwards.
No gender bias here.
GB: Our customers view McLaren not as a pure purchase of passion, but a purchase of considered desire. And the crowd is starting to open up more and more — we're seeing a lot more women drivers come through now. Some of the knocks and trims on our products are increasingly understated, and our cars are now easier to get into and drive. Our female customers are also decisive, they're now coming in and saying, "I want this car — this is for me, this is my car."
SINGAPORE'S MOTORING SCENE
A league of its own.
GB: The motoring scene in Singapore is extremely unique, because of the size of the country and the various implications of buying and owning a car here. It's unique and influential, and the F1 races in Singapore are known as business races where deals are signed and things get done. While Singapore is relatively small in volume, it's highly influential in terms of brand voice and the reach it has around the region — it punches well above its weight. It means that McLaren, and supercar and luxury car companies in general, become very relevant in Singapore.
YOUR FIRST MCLAREN
When our wildest dreams come true.
GB: A good first McLaren to buy? Any one! Our cars are very easy to drive — there's three settings on it, Comfort, Sport and Track. When you turn it up to Track, it becomes a track beast that is powerful, exciting, and brilliant. The Comfort element makes it a breeze to drive around Singapore. If you're looking to purchase one, you have to spend a bit of time in our car to realise that it isn't as intimidating as it looks. We've got a team of designers that are unworldly in terms of their talent, but our engineers have made it a very usable car. That said, I would pick the 570GT. It's the first car where we've tried to go for a more lifestyle angle, and a car for the journey as opposed to the thrill and dynamics that we have become known for. However, if you're talking about my favourites, one of them would be the 675LT. It has everything you want in terms of power, growl, noise, and poise.
A PEEK INTO THE BLUEPRINTS
What's this about an "all-electric supercar"?
GB: We rate ourselves as the best supercar manufacturer in the industry. And we are going to continue focusing on supercars — we don't intend to diversify into other models. By 2022, our sports cars will be 50% hybrid at that point. We've looked at an all-electric supercar — a mule car that is trying to understand how you can harness hydroelectric power for performance purposes. It's important for anyone to understand that the petrol engine gives sounds, vibration to the car, and a certain feeling that people are used to and can identify with an emotional element. At the moment, that's not replicated by electric cars. How do you bring that drama and excitement to something like a sports car which is about passion and excitement? Our engineers are trying to work that conundrum out.
That said, we're still focused on being the supercar of choice. There's always going to be a mobility that is moving in such a way of self-driving cars, but there's also an element where people want to take control of the car themselves. There are people that want to be passionate about performance and to effectively take it as a hobby or a passion. That's where we will play for the vast majority of the future.
The moment we've all been waiting for.
GB: If I was to give a very narrow definition of success for McLaren, it's having every customer who chooses our car to get the absolute most out of the driving experience. That might mean that they've never driven a supercar before, but they want to be more comfortable in the car. It might mean that they're looking to shave a few tenths of their lap time at a particular circuit. If we can make sure every customer gets the most out of their driving experience or how they measure themselves, then we have done our job in delivering what we want to deliver.
For more information, visit McLaren Singapore.