We speak to Infinity Cars’ Lalit Choudhary on bringing the legendary British marque to India, and the state of supercar ownership moving into 2023
Long before McLaren’s dealership could open its doors in Mumbai in November, 2022, a handful of imports had already been signed off. The most high-profile among them was that of film producer Bhushan Kumar’s Rs 4.7 crore-gift to actor Kartik Aaryan — the very first McLaren GT in India. The man spearheading this push towards expanding India’s supercar presence was no novice. As one half of the husband-wife duo heading Infinity Cars Pvt. Ltd., ex-Lehman Brothers banker, Lalit Choudhary’s equanimous demeanour comes with a titanic, decade-long portfolio of work with high-end automobiles. “When we started in 2006, the market was in its infancy and the thought was to represent some of the world’s top marques and introduce the culture of high-end, premium luxury cars to the country. I was relocating from Hong Kong with my wife, Pooja. So, we had already seen the proliferation of high-end cars in the city and thought, why not do something long those lines in India?” he recalls
Setzing an opportunity to partner with BMW while guiding the banking firm’s entry into the country, the Choudharys made incredible headway with the German carmaker, the first of many impressive marques on their roster today. McLaren, however, poses a unique challenge as a relatively younger company — McLaren Cars is under forty, and McLaren Automotive, the actively operating part of the company, is not even in its teens — compared to the centuries-old marques in the segment. According to Choudhary, the key attraction towards McLaren was simply their unrelenting focus on the “cutting edge of automotive technology,” he says, gazing fondly at an in-showroom panel displaying McLaren’s state-of-the-art facility in Woking, Surrey, England. It’s clear from the thousand-yard stare and recounting of the time he spent there during a 2018 visit to the plant, that the half-decade-long process of pitching India’s latent potential as a supercar market had a big influence on the man.
India’s Growing Supercar Horizon
2023 is shaping up to be a very interesting year for performance car enthusiasts in the country, with more range, aftersales support, and compliant infrastructure than ever before. “The fundamental difference is that there’s a lot more acceptance for such a car. This comes with three or four things — the first of which is road infrastructure. India is building a massive network connecting different cities,” considers Choudhary, referring to projects such as Mumbai’s Coastal Road and Trans Harbour Sea Link. “Fuel quality has also improved over the years. There’s also a much higher chance that, in somebody’s peer group, they’ll find someone who already owns or is willing to buy such a car,” he elaborates, adding how the early buyers putting their cars up in the pre-owned market is proliferating another crop of buyers in the segment. he numbers back Choudhary’s convictions. While the first year of Covid did lead to a lull, the ultra-luxury and supercar segments made a resounding comeback in 2021-22, with brands like Porsche, Lamborghini, and Bentley registering their best-ever sales performances in the country.
“One thing that didn’t exist before in this segment was the incredible level of customisation we have available today — people used to just ‘buy the brand’ as it were,” he says, explaining how supercars have become inextricably linked to the personalities of the men and women behind the wheel. Then, there’s a growing crop of buyers — young ones who’re interested in the culture around luxury automobiles, via clubs and older buyers who’re looking to fulfil their lifelong passions, now that they have the purchasing power. “I think, the passion for supercars truly cuts across all age groups — it’s just such an individual product,” Choudhary shares. The challenge, according to him, lies less in generating demand than it does in meeting and exceeding customer expectations. “It’s not about putting crazy volumes on the table but has more to do with ensuring that India gets its fair allocation across the new model launches that are on the cards for McLaren,” he elaborates.
The Next Chapter
t the moment, McLaren has a small but impressive lineup of cars on sale. Namely, the aforementioned McLaren GT, the incredibly quick 720S, and finally the 765LT Spider. The last one, in particular, reveals India’s interest in limited-edition exclusive models. At least two out of 765 global examples are currently on Indian roads, one of which was purchased by Hyderabad businessman Naseer Khan for a whopping Rs 12 crore, while the other went to fellow real estate mogul Praveen Agarwal for an undisclosed price. The 720S, after first appearing in India back in 2018, stole the spotlight last year, having been acquired by Raymond Group’s Gautam Singhania.
Next on the checklist is the Artura — Mclaren’s latest entry into the hybrid supercar segment following the iconic P1 and Speedtail models. The Artura stands right beside products such as Ferrari’s recently launched 296 GTB and Lamborghini’s to-be-announced hybrid platform — on the cusp of a revolution ignited by Formula 1’s immense R&D push towards faster, more sustainable performance vehicles. McLaren’s phenomenal success in this realm brings up thoughts of Bruce McLaren himself — the infinitely resourceful and short-lived founder of a racing team that hasn’t faded from the public eye despite being over half a century old.
It’s been fifty-two years since the hotshot Kiwi’s death during a fatal test lap at Goodwood’s Lavant Straight. Despite this, something about his identity remains seated within each McLaren’s lithe, painstakingly overengineered chassis. The attention to detail, fanatical obsession with aerodynamics, and sheer ambition on display is moving in this Mumbai showroom just as it must have been all those years ago, when Bruce’s distraught workforce picked up a Wednesday morning paper, and saw their mentor, boss, and good friend’s face beaming up at them. One such image — lit-up and capturing Bruce’s faint smile from behind the wheel — covers an entire wall of the dealership. Though similar markers of McLaren’s legacy can be found all around the place, the biggest ones remain pretty damn obvious — the cars themselves.