The crash-proof supercars - Monocolumn | Monocle


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19 September 2009

It’s as if the Lehman brothers had never met. A quick look at the list of new cars unveiled at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show (open to the public until 27 September), reveals an unprecedented number of outlandish, expensive and absurdly conspicuous cars.

Even before the show opened its doors to the press on Tuesday, McLaren had unveiled its clunkily named but delectable successor to the legendary F1, the €165,000 MP4-12C, while Bugatti, one year to the day after the Lehman crash, trumped them with the €1m (if it ever goes on sale) Galibier super saloon.

At the show itself we’ve been introduced to Lamborghini’s €1.1m Reventon Roadster; Bentley’s all-new €220,000 Mulsanne, and Rolls-Royce’s rival, the “small” saloon Ghost (also €220,000). Aston Martin has its four-door Rapide; Mercedes has unveiled its €170,000 SLS (it’s got gull-wing doors! Woo-hoo!); and Ferrari has officially unveiled its otter-sleek 458 Italia (€167,000 to you, madam).

Having dribbled almost non-stop since the Rapide was first rumoured, and complained for years – decades – about the dearth of truly beautiful Ferraris, it seems churlish to greet them with a concerned frown, but you have to wonder who on earth is going to stump up for all this precious metal. Haven’t they heard demand for new cars has slumped by almost a half in some markets?

Haven’t they noticed there are around a quarter fewer companies at Frankfurt this year? And I’m guessing these brands aren’t doing much trade at the “cash for clunkers” end of the market…

“Our customers still have the money and the desire,” says Jon Stanley, PR manager at Rolls, bullishly. “We’ve had over 1,000 orders for the Ghost already, and 80 per cent are new to the brand. Lots of them are people who took a look at the Phantom a couple of years ago and liked it but felt it was a bit too much of a statement, so you could say this is fortuitous timing. Then again, you also have those who feel that, if they buy a $75m dollar yacht, the only person who’s going to see it is the crew but a £200,000 car is going to be seen by everyone.”

So, though 2009 has been a pretty dire year for Rolls and its peers the Goodwood-based firm is quietly confident that the new Ghost will bring a recovery in 2010, thanks in large part to the still-buoyant Chinese and Middle Eastern markets. Without them, I suspect that many of the aforementioned (aside from Mercedes but almost definitely Aston Martin) would be petitioning for bankruptcy by now.

And, I know it’s vulgar, irresponsible and morally wrong for me to feel this way, but just the thought of this supercar smorgasbord makes me go all tingly. I could argue that the cutting-edge technology of the Ferrari 458 will eventually trickle down to ordinary cars – well, it does happen occasionally – or that there are plenty of electric and hybrid machines at Frankfurt too. Or that, though they are monstrous polluters, Lamborghinis are built in such minuscule quantities that their exhaust emissions are nothing compared to our collective DVD stand-by lights, but the truth is, a tingle is a tingle, and you can’t deny it.


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