Even though Switzerland is not home to a single major car company, the European nation still hosts what is widely considered to be the most important auto show of the year — the Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS).
For 2018, the event is open to the public from March 8 to 18, but all the new cars were unveiled to the press beforehand, on March 6 and 7. And after going through the list of the new reveals, one can easily argue that special- and limited-edition models of existing production cars are becoming a very popular source of revenue for the carmakers to fund the upcoming shift toward electric and autonomous technologies.
These variants, typically, do not cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop (as they are based on the same platform), but they still allow the companies to charge a massive premium to the customers, which they are willing to pay because of the restricted production (due to the lack of depreciation and exclusivity).
One of the most popular special-edition cars at GIMS 2018 is the Range Rover SV Coupe, a two-door variant Range Rover, of which only 999 units will be made. Each model has a base price of $295,000, but many owners might end spending up to $400,000 with heavy customisations. This means, as pointed out by British publication Autocar, if Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) manages to make $138,000 (£100,000) on each model, that is an easy $138m (£100m) boost to the bottom line – not bad for a company that has seen its EBIT decline from $4.3bn (£3.1bn) in 2014/15 to $2.08bn (£1.5bn) in 2016/17.
Another company in need of a financial stimulus is Alfa Romeo, Fiat Chrysler’s loss-making premium marque and as JLR, it too has delved into the ‘limited-edition market’ to raise some funds. At Geneva, the Italian brand has two special models on show, one based on the Stelvio Quadrifoglio and the other, on the Giulia Quadrifoglio. Alfa will make just 108 copies of each model and since most of the tweaks are cosmetic, this will most likely mean a healthy profit for FCA.
Preparing for an IPO
Moving on to ultra-exotic British marques, Aston Martin and McLaren. Both of them are said to be preparing for a stock market listing and hence want to present themselves to the industry in the best possible financial position and also create some buzz around the brands.
To do so, Aston Martin has revealed a track-only variant of its Valkyrie hypercar at Geneva, while McLaren, coincidentally, has launched the track-only version of its Senna hypercar. The Aston Martin is rumoured to cost over $3m and will have a production run of 25 units, whereas, the McLaren will carry a price-tag of $1.4m (a bargain, really), but will be available to 75 lucky collectors.
Helping the Parent
Meanwhile, Bugatti, being part of the scandal-hit VW Group, is trying to contribute to its parent company’s profit maximisation cause at Geneva with the Chiron Sport, a driver-focused iteration of the Chiron hypercar that premiered at GIMS 2016.
Considering its weight, the Chiron Sport will eventually struggle to compete with the likes of the Aston Martin Valkyrie and the Mercedes-AMG Project One on a race-track. However, that is unlikely to bother Bugatti as long as it can find a few multi-millionaires willing to shelve $3.26bn for the car (which it will).
The Ferrari 488 Pista
Not to be left behind by its peers, Ferrari, the world’s most popular sports car manufacturer, also has a special-edition model on show at GIMS — the 488 Pista.
Essentially a track-focused variant of the 488 GTB, the 488 Pista is said to be priced in the region of $350,000, and will go up against the Porsche 911 GT2 RS and the Lamborghini Huracan Performante. Although the 488 Pista’s production is not officially limited, given that it is a Ferrari, do not expect more than 2,000 to 3,000 units leaving the production lines at Maranello.
The Expert of Personalisation
Finally, the automaker that probably spends the most time personalising its customers’ cars is Rolls-Royce and at Geneva, it has highlighted its expertise with three custom-made Phantoms, one of them lavished with the rare metal Ruthenium.
For Rolls-Royce, and perhaps also for Bentley, Ferrari, McLaren, Lamborghini and Aston Martin, making such bespoke and limited-edition cars is the most appropriate way to increase the earnings without adversely affecting the brand value. Unlike Jaguar or Alfa Romeo, these companies cannot simply add a new product to the portfolio and raise the overall production by tens of thousands of units – that will diminish the all-important exclusivity factor. Thus, all they are left with are limited-editions, special-editions, track-only variants and one-offs.
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