Super-Lux Is In; Recession Is Out

September 15th, 2011

2012 Bentley Continental GTC

The Frankfurt show reminds us that automobiles, as much as anything else, are symbols of desire and excess.

The fact that the Maserati Kubang is a bloated pig of a car, like the new Bentley Continental GTC (at $212,800, above) is really the whole point. All the nouveaus (and there are plenty) will want one. As someone once said, “Nothing succeeds like excess.”

Despite the massive credit crisis in Europe and a virtual recession here, sales of and interest in super-lux cars are zooming. The Maserati brand may well help FIAT, its parent company, weather a 42 percent drop in company value (per the Stoxx 600 index). Maserati is projecting deliveries of 45,000 cars in 2014, with dealers up 150 percent worldwide.

In an interview, Ferrari Chairman Luca di Montezemolo announced that the 4-seat “family Ferrari” FF (at $356,000) will go on sale soon in the U.S. “I’m not worried because we have quality, exclusivity, a strong brand and innovative technology.”

For volume car companies that aren’t producing these high-zoot machines, it’s a different story, as Automotive News, the industry apologist, reports every day. Ford just cut its production at the Focus plant in Germany; FIAT announced there would be no IPO because of the turmoil in the financial markets. Etc. and so forth.

But the few are awash in so much money these days that new companies are springing up to produce vehicles for them. You know about all the tuners out there, plus companies like Hennessey.

In London, a company called Eterniti has evolved to produce another 620-hp “super-SUV” called the Hemera (below right), which looks like a modified Cayenne. One disgusted Brit said,

Regardless of the fact that [the] name sounds like a condition that affects the unmentionable parts of the human body, I quite frankly find the Hemera the most distasteful and unwelcome car to be launched in recent years.

Eterniti Herera, sideShown in Frankfurt, the Hemera “will feature a limousine-like rear cabin, including twin reclining seats, iPads and a drinks chiller, giving customers the option of being chauffeured as well as driving.” A chauffeured SUV?

Aston Martin has built a special factory to produce its “first supercar,” the One-77—over the top in “speed, performance, and price,” says the video, which goes on to thumb its nose at the recession.

Derek Kreindler wrote a great piece on the whole business of class, status and appeal of cars like the Kubang. Their appeal really has nothing to do with performance or build quality and everything to do with owning something that no one else (except a few of your rich neighbors) has.

He concludes that there’s no point in being nostalgic about a time when cars were pure expressions of a brand and sold as such. Cars like the Kubang are about money and marketing and nothing else: “Better to cheer on such a naked and ruthless attempt to make money than to sit among the destitute peanut gallery of enthusiasts who could never really afford one anyways.”

Are you one of the purists or one of the folks who lusts after super-lux cars like these?

—jgoods

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  1. Randy
    September 18th, 2011 at 18:14 | #1

    Actually, I’m the guy that keys those people’s cars in the parking lot at the fashion mall.

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