“Then March came and we had to shut down, dealers stopped selling cars and we stopped earning money and bills very quickly started piling up,” says Flewitt, adding that problems were exacerbated by car production winding down ready for new launches planned for the autumn. “Racing and Applied were losing money. We got stuck for liquidity very quickly.”
He says reports about just how dire McLaren’s situation was were overstated, part of a campaign by “some people” – he won’t identify them – “who would have liked to lend us money at quite appalling rates”.
The new funding and headquarters deal will give McLaren breathing space, and Flewitt says there’s more restructuring to come that could include “partial spin-offs” of the other divisions, or new investors. A float has long been talked about, but any hopes of shareholders getting a return on their investment has also been driven down the road by coronavirus.
However, this is being overseen by executive chairman Paul Walsh, the former Diageo boss who joined earlier this year, freeing up Flewitt to concentrate on the car business. But he concedes when Covid-19 meant “the money stopped coming in, we were within a few months” of going under.
Flewitt is certain McLaren would not have run out of road, no matter how desperate things appeared from the outside. “I’m not being arrogant but McLaren is the kind of company the money would be available for, from somewhere,” he says. “The question is what price we would have paid for it.”
How the company performs in an uncertain post-pandemic world remains to be seen. Flewitt says the redundancies mean the factory has gone down to a single shift and buyer interest is now at about 60pc of previous levels.
Plans to make 6,000 cars a year have been pushed back, and he thinks it will take “at least until 2022” for sales to return to 2019 level.