Publicity-shy Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim made a rare appearance last Friday at Conrad Centennial hotel for the media launch of McLaren Automotive Asia Pte Ltd, the Singapore-based regional headquarters for the British sports car manufacturer.
It was previously announced in August that Lim had committed a significant share in McLaren Automotive and sits on the board of directors alongside McLaren Group’s executive chairman Ron Dennis.
“The first thing that attracted me was whether I could make some money out of it. This is the right segment, high end, and the most interesting thing I found was the culture of the company — it is very strong with a drive to succeed and win. It’s a bonus — I feel I can learn from the brand. I realised the brand awareness is very strong. I mean, the car production is a new brand, but the awareness is already there. So that is what attracted me: the brand,” said the former stockbroker.
“This investment is not short term. The best value for this company can be extracted after it is allowed to grow. I would expect a multiple return on my initial investment at minimum.”
Translating its knowledge and expertise in Formula 1, McLaren is now a car manufacturer and the first product of this new venture is the high-performance MP4-12C sports car which was launched in Singapore in June.
“Confirming Peter Lim’s involvement with the company and the setting up of McLaren Automotive Asia shows our ambition for the region that is becoming the world’s focus for premium cars. History suggests that McLaren has a strong future in the region: we have a huge fan base through consistent Formula 1 success here. Since Lewis (Hamilton) joined the team in 2007, we have won races in the Asia Pacific region every season,” said Ron Dennis.
Dennis was team principal of the racing outfit from 1981 to 2009, winning the World Championship with driving legends such as Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, the late Ayrton Senna, Mika Häkkinen and Lewis Hamilton.
At the moment, the Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes F1 team consists of two former World Champions — Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button — but are struggling to keep up with the pace of defending champions Red Bull Racing.
Nonetheless, Dennis feels that the results from F1 will not affect the success of their road cars.
“The success of the Grand Prix team has no relevance to our ambitions in other parts of our group. Our ability to survive and compete is enhanced by a diversified revenue stream. There is greater insulation from economic pressures on Grand Prix teams. Traditionally, the first thing companies did in this sort of market was to slash the advertising budget. Now it’s the opposite as they learned that the immediate impact on the bottom line is gratifying, but longer term it proves unsuccessful.”
Choosing Singapore as the hub for the Asia region was a natural choice, Dennis says. “Singapore is the natural location for our regional business. It is commercially vibrant and home to successful entrepreneurs and proactive business leaders with a ‘can do’ attitude and an interest in sports cars. I first visited Singapore years ago, in transit to Australia and other destinations. Then came the Singapore Grand Prix and with that came an awakening throughout the world that Singapore had a dynamic that was extremely unique to Asia. It was apparent to me that if we found the right synergies and partnership this would be a natural hub for our Asian activities.”