McLaren Automotive, the sister company of the Formula 1 team, has revealed plans to open a new £50 million facility in Sheffield. The manufacturing plant (to be known as the composites technology centre) will be producing carbon fibre chassis for use in their sports cars. A site in Sheffield close to the University’s advanced manufacturing research centre has been chosen. The facility will open in 2020 and create approximately 200 new automotive jobs.
The McLaren name is synonymous with carbon fibre. They were the first team to utilise chassis made of the material in Formula 1. This was back in 1981 and the material provided many performance benefits because it was strong yet very light.
In 1992 they also became the first company to use a carbon fibre chassis on a road car. The McLaren F1 features a number of proprietary designs, making it stand out from all other sports cars. Firstly it is lighter (due to the carbon fibre) and has a more streamlined profile. Additionally the seat layout is unique with the driver up front in the centre, slighting forward of two passenger seats. The idea was to provide superior visibility.
The company has continued to use carbon fibre chassis in their vehicles but the parts are currently made overseas. The new composites technology centre will see this production moved to the UK, placing it closer to their base of operations. The benefits of this are four fold; they benefit from the technology in the UK, have advanced research facilities nearby, shorten their supply chain substantially, and gain extra protection against currency shocks.
Once the new facility is finished and operational it will become the second plant McLaren has. Currently the only other one is their Woking, Surrey headquarters. Other parts are made by specialists and bought in.
The news is great for Sheffield and anyone looking to take the first or next step in their career. McLaren will reveal more news about the automotive jobs they will be creating in the future. If the plant is successful there is potential it could be expanded further, including even more recruitment if necessary.