Detroit's car makers are facing the dismal prospect of bankruptcy or takeover, while even the ultra-efficient Japanese manufacturers like Toyota are, for the first time, posting operating losses and cutting back on production. The situation in Europe, and indeed around the world, is just as bad, with job losses and assembly line closures the order of the day. Yet there is one segment of the automotive industry that continues to defy the financial crisis and post record sales and profits.
The demand for ultra-luxury and ultimate performance cars shows no sign of slowing, but why should this be? Speak to the purveyors of automotive luxury, cars with high six-figure price tags, and they will cite a couple of reasons: one, supercars can make a very profitable investment, and two, with equity and bond markets in disarray, and banks only offering rock-bottom interest rates, there is a good case for high-net-worth individuals ploughing their spare millions into tangible, collectable assets like supercars. For while the volume production car starts to haemorrhage its value from the moment it leaves the showroom, supercars frequently can and do actually appreciate in value.
Not only can a supercar double in market value in a matter of two to three years--some Ferrari models are a case in point--but a number of smart investors order them before they are even built. They put down a deposit and, shortly after they take delivery, sell it on to a new owner unwilling to wait but willing to pay a handsome premium to take instant delivery of the latest supercar model.
Manufacturers, unsurprisingly, frown on this practice. In fact, at the very top end of the market, such is the exclusivity of these very special vehicles, they are not made available to the general public--they are sold by special invitation to keep the speculators at bay.
That was the case with the world's most expensive road car, the Bugatti Veyron. Bugatti plans to build just 300 of these 250+mph supercars, each with a price tag of some $1.54m. When Bugatti, a brand owned by Audi, launched the 'Sang Noir' special edition (named after its special all-black paint finish, and limited to just 15 cars) it invited potential owners to a special dinner to unveil the car to them. All 15 cars were reportedly sold by the time the coffee and petit fours were served.
Similarly priced, the Pagani Zonda Cinque was limited to just a five car edition. Invitations went out around the...