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There's a Chance Audi Might Be Buying McLaren. Here's Why That Would Make Sense

It could produce an F1 powerhouse...or the long-avoided McLaren SUV.

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It's been an interesting few days in the automotive and racing media worlds. First, Autocar cited a source claiming that Audi had bought McLaren; then, however, the McLaren Group quickly issued a statement refuting said report. The brand noted that "its technology strategy has always involved ongoing discussions and collaborations with relevant partners and suppliers" but says "there has been no change in the ownership structure." Audi denied the report as well, notin\g that they are "constantly looking at various cooperation ideas." BMW also denied reports they were interested in acquiring just the car production wing of McLaren — not the Formula 1 team.

It's not clear what the stages of any potential discussions between Audi and McLaren are or what form a potential partnership might take in the future. Audi could take an ownership stake in McLaren — as Mercedes-Benz did with Aston Martin — without outright purchasing it. But Audi and McLaren is a partnership that could make sense. Here's why.

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McLaren has been trying to raise money
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The racing team has been on the uptick, but McLaren was hit hard by the pandemic. The company recently sold (and then leased back) its famed technology center for $240 million. It also took on $740 million in additional investment from new and existing shareholders. There have been reports of job cuts and potentially mortgaging the brand's car collection. McLaren, with its branding and technical know-how, would presumably be an attractive target for other investors and open to significant investment from an established automaker.

McLaren would be the easiest way for Audi to get into F1
f1 grand prix of italy
Peter FoxGetty Images

The VW Group, which includes Audi and Porsche, has been exploring entering Formula 1 — which has far greater marketing potential than Formula E. F1's Concorde agreement stipulates that any new team entering the sport must pay a $200 million fee to existing teams; Audi could avoid that fee by buying McLaren. And McLaren also has a ready-made F1 factory and engineering operation in place and decades of accrued institutional knowledge.

Audi (and Lamborghini) could help build a McLaren SUV
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McLaren has thus far been a holdout about getting in on this SUV fad — a.k.a. the modern car market. But the Lamborghini Urus has been a massive sales success. Ditto for Rolls-Royce with the Cullinan. Aston Martin has an SUV. Ferrari has one in development. McLaren building an SUV will probably be a necessity for the bottom line.

Access to Audi engines and platforms — as it did with Lamborghini — could help McLaren get a profitable VW-platform-based SUV to market fairly quickly.

McLaren could help Lamborghini ditch V12 engines
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Will Sabel Courtney

Audi owns Lamborghini, and Lamborghini has a big engineering project ahead of itself. The company hasn't released an all-new sports car — if we're discounting the Urus — since 2014. The future will mean not just ditching the V12 engines for road cars, but producing future hybrid — Lamborghini has pledged to be all hybrid in some form by 2024 — and electric cars. McLaren engineering — already building hybrid sports cars —could help facilitate that project.

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