McLaren's HQ had a very special visitor round for tea yesterday. Prime Minister David Cameron popped over to open the Woking-based firm's new Production Centre.
The new facility will help McLaren build up to 4,000 new cars a year. They won't all be MP4-12Cs, though. The firm is planning to expand its range to more powerful cars, racers and, no doubt, a convertible.
Cameron opened the facility and commented on how he'd like to see Britain become known for its manufacturing once again: "We all want Britain to be a country where we're respected again for what we make as well as the services and finance we provide, vital though they are.
"Why does all this matter? It's not just the size of the economy that matters, it's the shape. Less debt, less dependence on finance – the scale of potential demand in manufacturing is huge."
The facility took fifteen months to build at a cost of £50million and is bolted onto the side of McLaren's Norman Foster-designed Technology Centre.
Each part of the new facility is designed to maintain McLaren's exacting, precision detail. The forklifts that roll along the floor are shod with white tyres to avoid marking the floor, work stations are no higher than 1.6 meters to give a clear view over the factory floor and parts hang on floating shelves. It's all a little OCD for most manufacturers, but McLaren Group chairman Ron Dennis insists on hospital-like cleanliness and care to create the best cars in the world.
Dennis saw the opening as a statement of intent – that McLaren will take on all rivals and beat them to the punch with engineering brilliance and stunning design.
He commented: "We never stop. We exist to go faster; to be state-of-the-art; to innovate; to perform with belief, flair and passion; to be the absolute best at what we do. And everything that McLaren is has been built on the founding principles of good design and solid, seamlessly efficient engineering and manufacturing."
As well as waxing lyrical about beating his rivals, Dennis spoke about how British industry should come back to the forefront over other, less tangiable, sectors: "We need to encourage young people to embrace the STEM subjects, by which I mean, science, technology, engineering and mathematics".
He went on to say: "This should not trigger the abandonment of the arts – of which I am also a keen patron. However, I firmly believe it is the role and duty of British industry to offer STEM graduates the appropriate destination jobs – the provision of a worthwhile career path that ensures that our brightest scientists, technicians, engineers and mathematicians aren't lured into finance or banking – simply because they feel that engineering cannot compete to offer equal satisfaction or reward."
Echoing Dennis' sentiments about encouraging more people into engineering, David Cameron revealed that next year the government will be introducing a new funding scheme to coax people into taking up apprenticeships at firms like McLaren: "We're basically saying the money is there; establish your own schemes and we will fund you."
The long and the short of all of this is: McLaren is coming for every supercar manufacturer in the world. They'll be using British parts and be put together by British hands in Woking. Look out, everyone else.