McLaren's gleaming supercars give Akzo Nobel's paints a lift

By BLOOMBERG | 8 December 2015

AMSTERDAM: Akzo Nobel NV is poised to get a boost from a ramp-up in production at McLaren Automotive Ltd. after it took over the contract from BASF SE to provide coatings for the Formula 1 racing team's million-dollar supercars.

McLaren's production line is in “afterburn” due to increasing demand, Alan Foster, executive director of operations at the automaker, told reporters recently.

The Woking, England-based company is considering a second daily shift at its factory as it looks to more than double volume to 4,000 road vehicles a year, he said. That will enhance the financial benefit for Akzo, which had to repitch for the vehicle paint order after initially being turned down.

Helped by premium products like the paint on McLaren cars, Akzo's performance-coatings division outperformed its decorative paint and specialty chemicals units in the third quarter, with sales up 5 percent. The premium portfolio includes yacht coatings, metallic finishes for car alloy wheels, and films that cut the painting time of the Airbus A380 and Boeing Dreamliner airplanes. The Amsterdam-based company has also supplied coatings for the London Eye ferris wheel and Wembley Stadium.

“We originally gave Akzo a brief of what was needed,” said McLaren's Foster. “When they fed back on the brief, it wasn’t what we’d wanted. Instead of just shrugging shoulders and admitting defeat, they took this as a challenge.”

At the McLaren factory near Woking, the paint quantities supplied are relatively small, although they cater to every whim of supercar buyers, including a favourite colour or showing off the weave of carbon fiber paneling, according to Anthony Lancina, an excutive at Akzo's automotive division.

Akzo became an official supplier to the McLaren racing team in 2008, displacing BASF on the supercar side in 2012, the year after it began selling the million-dollar P1 model. Although McLaren has slipped down the pecking order in Formula 1 this year, demand is growing for its expensive road cars.

Orders for McLaren's Sports Series, which was introduced last month, are at 1,200 cars. McLaren, which returned to the supercar market in 2010, reported operating profit of £20.8 million  ($31.3 million) last year, on sales of £475 million.

Both McLaren and Akzo are working with new materials such as graphene, which is tougher and lighter than carbon fiber, and will be part of future cars and Akzo's coatings, according to the companies.