In a recent Forbes magazine article, a number of valet parking attendants listed the qualities they admired the most in the luxury cars they get to drive on a daily basis, even if for a few minutes. Their responses were both curious and practical. They highlighted the importance of the engine sound, the fine materials and special lighting used in the interior, as well as particular details, such as the sound of the doors when they open and close, or the horn. Interestingly many underestimated the value of a vehicle’s technology.
Although an unusual approach to validate what makes a car unique, fact is there are many other aspects to consider. Historically cars have held special importance in our culture because there is no other product on the market that says so much about its owner. A car represents much more than a means of transport; it uniquely describes our personalities and our social status. Car manufacturers are quite aware of the circumstances and are willing to spend many millions in advertising every year, not only to launch their new products, but also to transmit a series of core values. A luxury car must be synonymous with exclusivity, but also sophistication and class; it has to put its owner in a place that complements his/her bank account.
The price of these luxury cars takes into consideration more than the materials, technology and manufacturing costs. Yes, the buyer also pays for the brand name. The traditions and symbolism of the most iconic luxury carmakers in the world can hardly be calculated in terms of monetary value. Those who move around in a Rolls Royce somehow enter the select set of European aristocrats who have owned them since 1905. On the other hand, drivers who sit behind the wheel of a Ferrari carry with them the spirit of motorsports from the brand that has won more Formula 1 World Championship than any other.
To earn these elevated prices, a luxury car has to inspire both from the outside as well as the interior. A truly exclusive car must make its passengers feel special, not only by the sublime materials used in its design, but it must also create a unique, sophisticated environment, an unexplainable, almost immaterial feeling that informs all the senses of the potential buyer. Each model should achieve this through different styles and emotions. A practical way of looking at this is through the smell of brand new cars. Most major firms have teams in charge of developing particular scents for each of their models. An Audi does not smell the same as a BMW.
A good example of the importance of creating this kind of uber luxurious environments is the Maybach experience. Maybach was one of the most historic European automobiles in the first half of the 20th century. Mercedes-Benz tried to revive the brand from its ashes and re-introduced it to the market in 2000. By 2013, Maybach was forced to stop production one more time. Apparently clients were not willing to pay upwards of one million dollars for a vehicle that resembled the Mercedes S Class, which comes at a much lower price. Maybach’s noble pedigree was not able to transmit the sense of luxurious exclusivity expected at this level.
The experience of driving a luxury car varies greatly depending on the style and purpose of each automobile. In a vehicle of representation the costumer looks, above all, for comfort; little things like soundproofing and noise reduction make a great difference. However, in the case of sports cars, the driver wants to feel in control of his emotions. The adventurous nature of these vehicles should convey lots of fun.
I vividly remember the first time I drove a high-performance sport car. Stepping on the accelerator and hearing the rough roar of the engine gave me goose bumps. I can´t avoid the smile that lights my face every time I remember the sensational experience. That smile is what justifies the price when you are on the market for a luxury sports car. A car of this magnitude should make you feel like the best and fastest driver in the world, something akin to jumping on a parachute or rafting down a wild river. The price of a luxury car is not defined by its leather seats or the size of its engine. What really distinguishes a luxury car is more intangible, like when you discover a good book or an amazing film.
The intangible component is the reason behind the logic of spending great amounts of money for a utilitarian product, whose main purpose is to transport us from one place to another. By the way, that first sports car that gave me goose bumps was a Maserati. ■