On Wednesday, March 8, 2023, De Tomaso Chairman Norman Choi introduced the De Tomaso P72 at an invitation only reception in Toronto, Canada. During the event, De Tomaso announced that the planned production run of the coupe, set at 72 units, is sold out. But a P72 roadster is in development and is currently undergoing homologation for the North American market, which is expected to be complete by this summer with production getting under way by late 2024. Which is all quite interesting as production has yet to start on the P72 coupe and is unlikely to in the foreseeable future. In fact, sources have indicated that all work on the De Tomaso P72 coupe stopped in March 2023. Work on the coupe was halted by the firm doing the development as De Tomaso hadn’t paid them since December 2022. With work on the P72 coupe stopped, it is highly unlikely any work is being done on a P72 roadster, which makes the claim about undergoing US homologation hard to fathom. So how did we get here?
Out of the Ashes
This chapter of the De Tomaso story starts back in April 2015 when an Italian bankruptcy court approved the sale of De Tomaso to Consolidated Ideal Team Ventures (ITV), a holding company incorporated in the Virgin Islands but based in Hong Kong for €1.05 mil. Per the sale report, a lawyer for the buyer announced that Ideal Team Venture plans to produce cars in China bearing the De Tomaso name. Norman Choi, is listed as both the ITV and De Tomaso Chairman. Little is known about his background but apparently Choi went to school in the United States in the 80s which is where his interest in De Tomaso started. Per his comments at the March 2023 Toronto event;
“I went to school in the U.S. back in the late 80s, and De Tomaso at the time was still a big hit,” Choi told Wheels.ca. “My neighbour had a Pantera, so every weekend he would take out the car and I was like wow, holy smoke, that’s a nice-looking car. So, that’s how I got started.”
Ideal Team Ventures was actually the under bidder at the original auction to L3 Holdings but ended up with De Tomaso after L3 Holdings was unable to fulfill its financial obligations. ITV then added to its brand portfolio when it acquired the bankrupt German Supercar manufacturer Gumpert in early 2016 and renamed it Apollo Automobil GmbH. In 2018, ITV changed its name to De Tomaso Automobili. De Tomaso is basically a marketing, design, and sales company with little to no experience in developing and producing cars. In an interview in early 2022, Ryan Berris, the CEO & CMO of De Tomaso, stated: “The team behind De Tomaso doesn’t come from an automotive background and I think that’s important in that it makes for a much more open mindset.”
The Intensa Emozione
While it would be four years before ITV revealed its plans for De Tomaso, work on a new Apollo hypercar started almost immediately after ITV acquired the rights to the brand. In October 2017, ITV unveiled the Apollo Intensa Emozione (IE) and production of the limited 10 unit run started in early 2019. Development and production of the Apollo IE was outsourced to HWA AG (a customized vehicles & racing car constructor which was spun out of Mercedes AMG) with Capricorn Group providing the carbon fibre monocoque chassis.
The Apollo IE carried a €2.3 mil. sticker price and was not street legal. Talking to a few sources, it appears that the IE is more garage art than useable track car as all are basically prototypes with limited development. Not surprising given the very limited production run and quite low overall value of the program. The Use Casefor the IE appears to be “to be seen”. However, the IE development did provide running platform for the 1stmules for ITV’s next endeavor, the De Tomaso P72.
ITV sold Apollo Automobil GmbH in March 2020 after three IEs had been delivered to customers. In conjunction with the sale, De Tomaso entered into a three year license agreement starting in May 2020 to use the new vehicular platform designed and developed by Apollo Automobil for a minimum aggregate license fee of $10 mil.
Goodwood Coming Out Party
The new De Tomaso P72 was shown at the UK’s Goodwood Festival of Speed in the summer of 2019 with an initial price tag of €750K with customer cars slated for delivery starting in late 2020 or early 2021. The P72’s coming out party was very impressive and from what I was able to gather at the time all 72 planned cars had deposits placed against them in short order. In fact, I understand that De Tomaso had far more individuals expressing serious interest than they had build slots. The initial deposit was around €100K and was to be fully refundable until the final vehicle specifications were released. At the time, it was communicated that the P72 deposits were being held in escrow and not directly by De Tomaso. It was also consistent with Choi’s statement:
De Tomaso does not need to make money. “It would be nice, but it’s not a critical element. So, I have room to be able to build a car in the way I that I think is worthy of the name. The idea with this vehicle is not to create a business plan about profit margins, but to create a car that people can value for its design, engineering and craftsmanship.”
The P72 prototype shown at Goodwood was built off the Apollo IE platform with a new body designed by Jowyn Wong. Wong also did the design work for the Apollo IE. Post Goodwood, the P72 was next seen at Pebble Beach in August 2019. This was followed by an announcement in October 2019 that the P72 would be powered by a 700 bhp Ford supplied V8, developed and built by Roush.
Restoring the Romance
The main public activity around the P72 in 2020 & 2021 was the showing of the three prototypes built by HWA AG at numerous events in the US & Europe. Two of these prototypes were basically rebodied Apollo IEs and the third has an early version of Roush V8 fitted. De Tomaso has repainted the prototypes several times over the last several years, giving the illusion that there are multiple prototypes in existence. Why De Tomaso would go to the expense of showing the P72 at all these different locations if all were spoken for does raise a few questions.
Other than displaying the prototypes, 2020-21 was mostly radio silence with a few rather interesting announcements, several of which haven’t aged very well. Starting off this list, in October 2020, De Tomaso announced that they were moving all of their operations to the US “to restore the romance, beauty, passion and elegance in the luxury American automotive industry”. 2021 news from De Tomaso was limited to just a couple of videos about their past, a few line drawings, and black and white pictures of a gearbox housing.
In a rather abrupt change of direction, in early 2022 De Tomaso entered into a partnership in Germany with the Capricorn Group to co-develop the P72. In conjunction with the Capricorn announcement, De Tomaso stated that customer deliveries were targeted to start in the first half of 2023. The Capricorn Group is a highly regarded specialist OEM supplier to the automotive industry with six production facilities across multiple countries. Capricorn’s main business is motor sport and they have worked with teams in Formula 1, WEC, World Rally Championship, World Touring Car Championship, Rally Dakar, NASCAR, GP2, GP3 S, MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3 to name a few. Their list of customers reads like a who’s who of the auto industry including Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Bugatti, Porsche etc so they have a huge amount of experience. In the press release announcing the partnership, De Tomaso stated that a new carbon fiber chassis and suspension would be developed vs. the one they had originally planned to use. How this impacts the $10 mil. three year license agreement to use the Apollo IE vehicular platform I have no idea. As De Tomaso is basically just a sales & design operation, bringing a partner in that knew what it was doing to handle the development and production was an absolute necessity. To produce the P72, De Tomaso also announced they were building a new factory, visitor center and interactive museum at the Nürburgring in Germany with a targeted competition date of October 2022. Why De Tomaso felt the need to make this announcement about a factory is beyond me as Capricorn was going to build the P72s for De Tomaso and already had multiple facilities. To top it off, De Tomaso only has a very small group of about 4 employees, none of which come from an automotive background. They would need to recruit, train, and fund a whole new work force if they were actually going to produce the P72 “in house”.
As of November 2022, it looked like the P72 was finally on track to start production in early 2023. In a fairly short period of time, Capricorn was done developing the chassis, suspension, and other components, and Roush was ready with the heavily modified Ford Coyote V8. In addition, EU homologation had been mostly completed. As a “taster” to the production startup, De Tomaso posted a video in November 2022 showing parts being bolted onto a P72 as it sits on a stand in what appears to be a small factory room. At about the same time De Tomaso also announced a new track only car, the P900 of which 18 units would be built at a price tag of $3 mil. with first deliveries slated for late 2024. How many of the original depositors of the P72 from 2019 remain I don’t know, but I have heard De Tomaso had collected about €500k from each at this point.
With 6 chassis already in early build up at Capricorn’s facility at the Nürburgring, in March 2023, it all came to a screeching halt. Turns out De Tomaso had neglected to fully pay Capricorn. With a multimillion Euro bill outstanding, Capricorn halted all further development on both the P72 & P900 and has taken legal action to recover its debt. As it is Capricorn that took what was a design model and turned it into a production ready car, they own the IP so De Tomaso can’t easily turn to another supplier. In addition, as part of the debt recovery process, Capricorn has control of two of the three P72 prototypes in existence (the third is with HWA) plus De Tomaso and Norman Choi’s assets in Germany.
On De Tomaso’s website today, the base price is now listed as €1.6 mil. and they are accepting “registrations of interest”. With a more than a 2x increase it seems they might have had a bit of a math problem with the original estimate on the build costs. Turns out the bill of materials for a P72 is €600k so the original sales price of €750k wasn’t even remotely realistic unless De Tomaso was going to subsidize the build cost on each P72 to the tune of over €1mil. De Tomaso also announced that they are sponsoring one of the Grids at the Le Mans classic on June 29th-July 2nd. With 2 of the 3 prototypes definitely unavailable to them, it will be interesting to see how, and with what, they show up. Then just to top it all off, De Tomaso issued an update to their “Custodians” (De Tomaso’s internal name for depositors) in early May 2023 stating that:
In the beginning of 2023, we have successfully awarded the final production of the P72 to our longstanding partner, HWA. To increase the P72 production output and assist with the transition into assembly, the official De Tomaso Automobili factory will now be repositioned from our interim facilities at Capricorn, the Nurburgring, to the heart of HWA within Affalterbach, Germany.
No date is given on when De Tomaso expects production to start at HWA.
What a mess. Despite Capricorn pulling the plug, Choi and De Tomaso seem to be merrily going along as if all is on track. Right now, it doesn’t look like the long suffering depositors are going to see their cars anytime soon, if ever. In the last several years, De Tomaso has announced they were moving all their operations to the US (2020) “to restore the romance, beauty, passion and elegance in the luxury American automotive industry”, then it was off to the Nürburgring (2022) where they were going to build a new factory, visitor center and interactive museum and now (2023) it’s to the heart of HWA within Affalterbach, Germany. What’s the three strike rule again?
If De Tomaso did collect roughly €36 mil. in deposits, that money is likely long gone, given they can’t afford to pay Capricorn. The one thing Choi did state that is almost accurate:
“De Tomaso does not need to make money”
Because there is basically no chance that I can see that it will.
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