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Mercedes plots McLaren buyout

Wed, 04 Oct 2006

By Georg Kacher

Motor Industry

04 October 2006 09:00

DaimlerChrysler is planning a bid for the McLaren Group, to gain full control of its F1 operation and production of the SLR supercar.

CAR Online asked DC boss Dieter Zetsche if he was considering extending Mercedes' stake in McLaren, to give the Germans control. 'It's one of the options we might exercise,' he said. As for the timing, Zetsche would only venture: 'In a situation like this, you don't wait forever.' The smart money is on a bid before the end of the year. Various prices have been mooted for the McLaren Group, with €600-750m the rumoured ballpark. Mercedes already owns 40 percent of the McLaren Group, with the remaining 60 percent split between CEO Ron Dennis and Mansour Ojjeh.

The industry grapevine has been buzzing with rumours of a DC takeover of McLaren. The Germans are seeking more control of the F1 team, having been disappointed with Team McLaren Mercedes' performance this season. The team has yet to win a race, despite strong showings from Kimi Raikkonen in qualifying, and in-team turmoil. Pedro de la Rosa replaced Juan Pablo Montoya halfway through the season.

And the SLR project has not gone smoothly, either. The 626bhp supercar arrived late and over budget, amid rumours of major tension between Mercedes and its British partner. The Woking plant has assembled more than 1000 of the carbonfibre sports cars. But a 650bhp, track-honed limited edition, the 722, and a forthcoming cabrio version are in the pipeline, to boost interest in the two-seater. Mercedes and McLaren's relationship has had its ups and downs. A supercar to replace the SLR – inspired by the classic 300SL Gullwing of 1955 – will be built in-house by AMG, not McLaren. That's because two proposed mid-engined McLaren-Mercedes – one aimed at the Lamborghini Murcielago, the other at the Gallardo – were pulled in late 2004.

By Georg Kacher