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McLaren Toronto grand opening bash with Ron Dennis and Chris Pfaff

Posted Jun 18th 2012 4:00PM

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It seems like it has been forever in the making but McLaren is now actively selling cars right here in Toronto. The already legendary MP4-12C is moving off dealer floors across North America even though we saw the car at a preview back in summer of 2010. Here in Canada, the man that made this supercar accessible is Chris Pfaff, the same principal who has dominated the Porsche landscape locally and challenged dealers in much larger cities. Although Pfaff Automotive Partners operates several dealerships, their Porsche efforts have made them the 4th largest volume dealer in all of North America! But they have now shifted focus to another venture, and despite the MSRP of the McLarens everyone has faith that Mr. Pfaff can make it take-off.

Although in operation for a couple of months now, McLaren Toronto staff was so busy moving cars, there was no time for a grand opening soirée. How busy? Well try the largest volume McLaren dealer in the entire world for the month of April. Already operating like a well-oiled gearbox, McLaren Toronto is a stunning facility that had all guests in awe. The post-modern metal and glass building truly looks the part and Pfaff spared no expense on making a statement with the building. We were impressed with the size and calibre of the facility and still couldn't believe it was only a one-model dealership that didn't piggy-back on another brand.

The event was a very limited VIP invite and the supercars that showed up to the valet had everyone gawking. Despite the fact they were from different makes, Pfaff was unconcerned because these are all potential buyers. After a brief speech by Pfaff, he handed the mic over to Tony Joseph, the Director of McLaren North America to talk a bit about how this even made it past the idea stage. Later on it was time for the man himself, Ron Dennis, Executive Chairman of McLaren to offer some insights into his relationship with Pfaff and his admiration for Canada as a whole.

Dennis spoke extremely highly of Canada and remarked that McLaren has huge racing success here, even well before he took over in 1981. He noted that Canada was an untapped market, the economy was strong and the McLaren brass projected them to succeed here. Dennis shared his admiration for the dealership, its principal, customers and the fans for making McLaren literally an instant success.

Read on for a 1-on-1 interview with Chris Pfaff about how he made it all happen and how McLaren plans to carve out a niche in the supercar market after the jump.

Image Credit: Copyright 2012 Dave Pankew / AOL



Tell our Autoblog Canada readers about how the McLaren store concept came to be in Toronto.

Well, in my previous life I came to know Tony Joseph, who is now the Director of McLaren North America, as we worked together before. It started when he called me up about four years ago and said I've joined McLaren and we're looking to build a strong dealer network for our brand. He told me they wanted to start with one location in Canada and a few others in North America. I knew it was a great brand, so when he asked if I would be interested and I said of course, but I'd need to learn a little more first to make it a viable venture. Next thing I know, they invited me to England to visit McLaren which was the first of many interviews so to speak in regards to becoming a dealer for this prestigious brand. These guys were very serious and don't mess around, which is why it all came together well and we made it happen.

How would you compare the Canadian market to larger U.S. cities for luxury and exotic brands, is it a tougher sell?

I don't see it that way... maybe 20 years ago. But we're now competing head-to-head with the largest dealers in Miami and LA everyday. Actually, we just found out we were the top selling McLaren dealer in the world in April. I'm certain there is a strong market here for these cars and the key is getting out and prospecting clients for these amazing products, not waiting for customers to walk through the door.

Would you say the MP4-12C has lived up to its expectations?

It has exceeded our expectations! The balance in that car and how comfortable it is even in my suit and amazing driving dynamics make it a true performance car you can really drive... even in my suit all day. Then its advanced technology allows it to have a split personality once you get it out onto the track, where it really shines. Just amazing balance.



What you say to the critics out there who feel the MP4-12C performance is too close to lesser priced cars, on the Nurburgring for example.

I can only go by my track experience and what I know. Based on that, this is a very impressive car. Even a handful of Canadian race car drivers who've told me how impressive it is. Drive it for yourself, you'll see.

We recently reported that the 2013 model would have fairly significant upgrades, is that a response to anything particular?

Oh, just continuous improvement. It's a very engineer-driven company. You know, a lot of car companies say that, and they are, but to a point. This company obsessively engineers the vehicles so they're gonna make the 2013 model better. More horsepower, better response, better transmission management mapping. The great news though, we're going to do it free for every client that has a 2012 at our expense which is a pretty big undertaking and I've never heard of it in the industry.

Now when you say "our expense" is that dealership level or manufacturer?

It's more corporate. McLaren said they're going to thank the first people that have bought the car, so we want to keep them up to speed on the performance that we have on a car that comes out a year later.



Are there any high-profile Canadian clientele that you can talk about that have purchased the car and are thrilled with it?

Well, for Cirque du Soleil's Guy LaLiberte, we designed a special car for him. Extremely special, and that car will arrive I think in the next three weeks, and I think he's the biggest one that comes to mind, I guess in terms of a celebrity. Very interesting clients overall. Diverse clients too.

I have a friend who was very interested in buying this car, attended the pre-launch and everything. But there was an issue, he has a single car garage in his luxury townhome and the dihedral doors wouldn't clear the walls. Have you heard of this and what would you say to him?

Tell him to call me. We'll modify his townhome (laughs).


It is exciting to see how everything from electronics to hydraulics and pneumatics, chassis and materials have been rethought in this design. What would you say is the crowning achievement and do you think others will follow suit?


I guess you've gotta look at the leading technology. The suspension system, the way it works, the pneumatics, the carbon fibre tub, the rigidity of that. When the Spyder version comes out, because of that carbon fibre monocoque, you don't get that body flex in the Spyder, so, that's all amazing technology. I think what I said earlier, the transformation from comfortable sports car to an animal on the racetrack, it's incredible how diverse the car becomes.



Do you own one yourself?

The orange one outside.

So that is the one we see around town?

There's another one actually. I had to order that colour because to me it's traditional to the race version and that was my first experience with McLaren. First race I ever attended, McLaren won. It was a CanAm in 1970 and I was a 10 year old and my brother took me to a race and the orange McLarens came in 1 and 2.

Was that something that left a lasting impression to drive you to accomplish everything you've done in Canada in retail and motorsports?

Absolutely. Motorsports to me is a big thing. I'm definitely a car guy. So we participated in motorsports. We do it for fun, we do it for marketing. I'm very serious about how we do it. It's a great world out there in terms of marketing and McLaren is there. Motorsports and the car business for me was meant to be since I was five years old.



Did you ever consider one of the race-only GT3 McLarens to campaign? Or not now since they are all spoken for?

We've talked loosely about picking one up. If there's a great opportunity in North America to race one and do it right, we would be interested. I'm sure they can make some more for me (smiles).

Anything to add for our Autoblog Canada faithful?

I think people will become aware about how great the car is. I think that our success will be judged by great customer experiences and I think they really believe we're approachable, humble and that we're proud of what the car is. We're not aloof. It's not a privilege to buy one, it's a privilege for us to be able to sell one. There's a great team at Pfaff that made this all possible.

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