Is the McLaren MP4-12C a lemon?

The McLaren MP4-12C has won nothing but plaudits from those who've been fortunate enough to drive one. Among those fortunate enough to pay at least $230,000 for one, there's a different story emerging — about broken parts, defective doors and unkept promises from the factory.

The early success of the MP4-12C has McLaren chief Ron Dennis talking about turning the boutique British company into a billion-dollar enterprise, with two additional models and a healthy expansion into Asia. Just today, Dennis said McLaren hopes to eventually build 4,000 cars a year with a steady waiting list of about a year's worth of business. The wait for a MP4-12C right now is two years, which Dennis called simply "not good."

Here's one reason why.

The photo below shows a McLaren service center in England last week with at least three MP4-12CS present for a repair to their door-opening mechanisms. It's a bugaboo that McLaren is reportedly ordering to every MP4-12C built so far after several reports of the scissor doors failing in wet conditions and problems with the touch-sensor opening.

If that was the only issue, there wouldn't be much hubbub. But its not.

Is the McLaren MP4-12C a lemon?


Several McLaren owners have reported a cornucopia of other problems, including the vehicle immobilizer, brake hoses, navigation systems that won't work and even defective glass seals around the engine cover. One British owner detailed a Lucas-esque level of electrical gremlins: a screen stuck on Feb. 23 in September, telling him his next service was due in 26,000 days, leaving the radio on five minutes after the car had been parked and warning him three of his tires had been punctured:

None of these in isolation is a big deal but together, well it's just unfinished. I have to say Mclaren have been very good and have already been out to me twice to repair a couple of other problems. I understand a fix for all of these things should be available in the next couple of weeks. I am however expecting it to be flawless once it has been done.

Other would-be McLaren drivers are not so patient, especially with the defects apparently causing backups at the factory, pushing delivery dates back:

Would have been nice to have got mine but in the end I just couldn't put up with the endless broken promises of delivery dates, non information, misinformation and people not contacting me when asked to, final straw was they started bumping cars ahead of mine on what appeared to be a 'who shouts loudest' policy and believe me I was shouting but clearly at the wrong person. Perhaps it's for the best because if after all that had have happened bits started not working then I think I'd have driven it through the front of the showroom!

Which, according to one Jalopnik tipster, has led McLaren to offer upset owners and those still waiting for their keys a special consolation package, including a free 32Gb McLaren iPod Touch, a $7,800 rebate, a free installation of the IRIS voice-controlled navigation system when it's finally ready — and, most importantly, a photograph of their car or similar signed by both Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.

This final step shows the kind of world-beating savvy McLaren will rely on to become a billion-dollar business. The next time you get your Chevy fixed, don't leave the dealer without Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s signature on something.

Hat tip to MrQuick!