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AutoWeek Design Forum: McLaren evolves with carbon fiber

Thu, 13 Jan 2011

McLaren Automotive design boss Frank Stephenson detailed his company's transformation from strictly racing to producing road-going models on Thursday at the AutoWeek Design Forum.

McLaren is launching the highly anticipated MP4-12C this year, and the company has been hard at work refining the use of carbon fiber, which it pioneered in the iconic McLaren F1.

The company cut the amount of time required to design a carbon-fiber tub from 3,000 hours for the F1 to a mere four hours for the MP4-12C.

"I think the direction of McLaren, the one thing I feel really strongly about, is evolution," Stephenson said.

The company is positioning itself as a bit different from Ferrari and Lamborghini, he said, in an effort to create a new part of the market.

"It really is a white-sheet-of-paper project," Stephenson said.

His company is also continually innovating the use of carbon fiber, transferring its implementations in racing to the road.

"We all know you can crash at 200 mph and walk out with just a slight headache," he quipped.

The challenge is taking that knowledge and putting it in the hands of an exclusive group of customers.

By Greg Migliore