How Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche use ultra exclusive and expensive cars to advance their brands.
When rumors started circulating last year that Ferrari was developing a successor to their Enzo, the brand’s last limited edition Formula One inspired supercar, automotive reporting on the internet became obsessed with speculation. What would power it? How fast would it go? And most importantly, how insane would it look? Eventually the car was confirmed to debut at the 2013 Geneva Auto Show, a lock in for most anticipated reveal.
While other dates on the annual auto show calendar, Los Angeles, Detroit, Frankfurt and Paris get a mix of concept and production debuts, Geneva has become an event more centered around design and engineering experimentation. It makes perfect sense to present one-off and limited production vehicles against the backdrop of a city fueled by fortunes in Swiss bank accounts. Ferrari hoped to steal the supercar spotlight this year, but a few other brands weren’t going to make it easy. Five stunning yet astonishing impractical debuts show it isn’t about the cars as much as generating buzz and introducing new technology.
Porsche 911 GT3 (Type 991)
This is the fifth-generation Porsche 911 GT3 and is essentially a street legal race car version of the 911. The GT3 tops the line and at $178,000+ is the most ‘affordable’ of the cars on this list. Transforming a production car to one that competes on the track usually involves stripping everything unnecessary away. Porsche have instead made this GT3 more sophisticated. It is the first GT3 to be produced without a manual gearbox. Porsche developed a special dual-clutch (PDK) transmission inspired by the ultra fast shifting sequential gearboxes in modern race cars.
Another first for the car is rear wheel steering which Porsche says will improve cornering precision. 911’s have always had their engines mounted in the rear of the car and we can’t begin to imaging how complicated an engineering task it must have been to find space to make the rear wheels turn. Using the engine weight in the rear has made doing giant tail slides a signature driving move for the 911, rear steering looks to make it quicker but will it still be as fun?
ItalDesign Giugiaro Parcour
To celebrate 45 years in business, independent design house ItalDesign Giugiaro unveiled their vision of an SUV created for the Volkswagen Group. The Parcour takes inspiration from the urban sporting activity we’ve all watched on youtube. Fabrizio Giugiaro explained the connection:
Parkour was devised as a new way of living and experiencing a metropolitan route creatively. Parkour enthusiasts, who are referred to as traceurs or plotters, adapt their body to the surrounding environment pursuing, through their movements, not just spectacle but instead mainly maximum efficiency. The purpose of parkour is to move around as efficiently as possible. By efficiently I mean: simply, quickly and safely, which are characteristic features of our car.
The Parkour Concept is essentially a Lamborghini Gallardo 4×4. Four selectable handling modes allow the driver to alter the vehicles suspension settings to a best match a specific terrain type. ItalDesign Giugiaro relates this system to the different kinds of body positions a parkour athlete uses to move of various obstacles. While the Parkour may at first look for fitting for Hot Wheels or Matchbox production, the rough road conditions in some major cities like New York make driving a typical low slung supercar perilous. The point of this was to grab some attention, but it kind of makes sense for production.
For those with the means and the desire looking to own a Ferrari but not satisfied with a factory model, Pininfarina can accommodate you. Bring them a Ferrari 458 Spider and they’ll turn it into the Sergio, a sleek, open top and back to basics sports car. Pininfarina caries on the tradition of coach building with the Sergio, luxury cars in the old days used to be tailor made for each owner starting with a chassis they provided. The Sergio retains all of the structural and mechanical foundations of the 458, while the new hand fabricated body provides a wind in your face driving experience. A major manufacturer could never sell a car like this, the market might be about ten people. Practicality fails aside, it is should find a home at the Museum of Modern Art.
The list of brands in the world that could survive by creating products specifically for their collectors isn’t long, Ferrari holding a spot somewhere near the top. The LaFerrari is their latest limited-edition hypercar model which Ferrari’s president, Luca di Montezemolo summed up in a brief sales pitch:
We chose to call this model LaFerrari because it is the maximum expression of what defines our company – excellence. Excellence in terms of technological innovation, performance, visionary styling and the sheer thrill of driving. Aimed at our collectors, this is a truly extraordinary car which encompasses advanced solutions that, in the future, will find their way onto the rest of the range, and it represents the benchmark for the entire automotive industry. LaFerrari is the finest expression of our company’s unique, unparalleled engineering and design know-how, including that acquired in Formula 1.
The exterior styling influences from Formula 1 are obvious in the front end nose and lower wing. While the surfaces get complex towards the back, a single line that sweeps from behind the front tire around the back of the car ties the car together and relates to past models like the F40. But the styling isn’t all just for looks. Employing advanced wind tunnel and fluid modeling technology Ferrari engineers aimed to deliver the highest degree of aerodynamic efficiency ever achieved with any road car. The results were to improve performance and fuel use.
The LaFerrari is a hybrid (remember when hybrids were bashed for not being cool?). The system uses two electric motors to boost acceleration with more torque. The car will reach 62 miles an hour faster than it takes you to read this sentence. The LaFerrari has already lapped the companies’ Fiorano test circuit four seconds faster than any previous Ferrari production model.
While the LaFerrari is extreme, the award for most bonkers reveal at Geneva has to be the Lamborghini Veneno based on looks alone. Here’s a couple more stats to drive the point home; it costs $3.9-million-dollars. Acceleration from 0 – 100 happens in 2.8 seconds. Three are going to be made and all have already been purchased.
The Veneno’s technology angle is material science. Most of the car is constructed from lightweight carbon fiber. The interior is covered in CarbonSkin, a unique woven material soaked in a special kind of resin that stabilizes the fiber structure, while allowing the material to remain flexible.
Much of the automotive press has lamented the loss of the risk taking in the styling and design of supercars since the really the late 80’s. Debate goes on whether these cars are even necessary. This crop shows that the real value of producing these types of cars lies in evolving brand perception and demonstrating engineering innovation.