Uncertain future for super cars as financial crisis bites

April 10th, 2009 - 9:20 am ICT by IANS  

By Heiko Haupt
Maranello (Italy), April 10 (DPA) Manufacturers of super sports cars have just announced a host of new models, but many of them may not reach the showrooms, as the global financial crisis hits a customer segment previously immune to economic downturns.

Makers of premium luxury and super sports cars could in the past always rely on an extremely wealthy clientele eager to fork out several hundred thousand dollars for a new V12 with up to 700 horsepower.

But several market analysts believe many of the models seen in teaser images or in concept studies at the recent car shows may never be built and will be confined to the pages of glossy brochures.

“Super sports cars will not play a role for at least the next two years,” says German car analyst Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer from the University of Duisburg-Essen.

“In the past, the super rich always had enough money to fulfil their motoring dreams. But this crisis reveals that luxury this time has not been left immune with many a super rich banker having been hard hit.”

At present, the sports car makers are still wallowing in past successes. The Ferrari subsidiary in Germany for instance reports that it “broke all sales records for the year 2008″.

But Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo sounded less optimistic recently saying, “the economic recession is hitting the whole world and it is difficult to look into the future”.

Daimler’s super sports car subsidiary AMG, which also reported record sales in 2008, is also hesitant about making projections with spokesman Pietro Zollino saying it is still too early.

But why do car makers still present their super cars at the big motor shows?

Dudenhoeffer has a simple explanation: “In some cases, the cars are so far in the production process that it makes no sense to hold back. But where this is still possible it will be done.” So many ideas for a new car could be shelved.

Those with enough money can still order the Aston Martin V12 Vantage with a power package of 380 kW/517 hp and take delivery later this year. But the super Aston Martin One-77, which produces 515 kW/700 hp, is limited to a production run of 77 units with a price tag of about 1.4 million euros ($1.9 million).

The Bentley Continental Sports, which Bentley hails as the most powerful and fastest ever built, comes with an output of 449 kW/610 hp. It is FlexFuel compatible and can run on both petrol and ethanol bio fuel.

Lamborghini also emphasised that following the recent makeover of the Gallardo, it now emits 18 percent less carbon dioxide than its predecessor although it still comes with a performance of 412 kW/560 hp.

AMG is going ahead with its modern interpretation of the 1950s gull wing in the shape of the new SLS that will be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show this year.

“It is a really super sports car on a completely new platform,” says spokesman Zollino.

It stands a good chance of going into production because AMG is linked to a big car company.

The situation is far more critical for niche producers, according to Dudenhoeffer.

It is doubtful whether Italian producer Pagani in Modena will proceed with the production of the Zonda R with a V12 engine and an output of 602 kW/750 hp. The price was set at 1.46 million euros ($1.97 million).

It is also uncertain whether the Formula 1 racing team McLaren will ever go ahead in 2010 with the super sports road car currently designated as the P11.

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