It’s very unlikely I will be able to go to the Geneva Motor Show this year. It’s quite inconsiderate of the Swiss to always schedule the show during US College Spring break week when we all go skiing as a family. I also always end up with a business trip that second Geneva week which inevitably puts me on the wrong side of the planet. Despite not being able to attend, it hasn’t stopped me from trying to stay abreast with what is going on.
Among the major players in the Supercar market, it has never been a more exciting or competitive time. Within a short eight years, McLaren has seized the high ground in terms of both performance and engineering. It’s taken Ferrari two years to catch up to the McLaren 720S with the just launched F8 Tributo, Ferrari is a similar distance behind with a Senna competitor, and I haven’t even heard rumors of an answer to the Speedtail. How Ferrari has managed to go from the clear leader in the Supercar market to a not quite fast follower in less than a decade will make for a good business school case study. With Aston Martin now making the pivot from being a High-Performance Luxury car manufacture to competing directly in the Supercar market with the Valkyrie, 003, and soon to be announced mid-engine line, the heat in Maranello can only be rising. With the involvement of Adrian Newey and Red Bull in these Aston Martin projects, performance and credibility are a given. On a personal basis, up to this point I have never owned an Aston Martin but am now seriously interested in where they are going. In the past, every time I was in the market for a Grand Tourer, I would look at both an Aston and the comparable Ferrari. While the Aston might have won on appearance, the Ferrari always was the superior car to drive and hence that’s what ended up in the garage. Of the other major Supercar manufacture, Lamborghini, it’s not one that has every had much appeal and nothing in its current line has changed my point of view. Not that there is anything wrong with Lamborghini’s just never been my thing. With the launch of the Urus, I will be interested to see if they follow Porsche’s route and essentially become a SUV manufacturer with a supercar (in the case of Porsche, sportscar) business on the side.
As interesting as things are with the majors, what a number of smaller manufacturers are doing is equally as exciting. I don’t think there have been this many viable entrants in this segment since the sixties. Of the two established companies, Koenigsegg & Pagani, both have steadily moved up in the market price wise while building viable niche business. In both cases they essentially now build automotive art that tends to live in collections. Koenigsegg continues to innovate around ultra-high performance using the same basic design (Koenigsegg must have hired one of the original 911 designers) while steadily increasing its presence. While Koenigsegg seems to be on its way up, Pagani seems to have stagnated. The Huayra never has generated the same amount of excitement as the Zonda with its never ending final/limited/bespoke editions. For its 20thanniversary this year Pagani has promised something exciting. My guess is another bespoke edition of the Zonda.
Among the small manufactures, there have been a large number of exciting new entrants over the past couple of years. In some cases, these are “rebirths” of dead historic brands like Automobili Turismo e Sport (ATS), Gumpert Apollo, & TVR, plus the completely new launches of Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus (SCG), Zenvo, and finally established racing car manufacturers getting into the supercar business such as Dallara and Ginetta. Of the rebirths, so far both Gumpert Apollo and TVR appear to be more stillborn than rebirth.
Of the new entries, the one I find the most interesting actually will not be at Geneva in 2019, SCG. Outside of the racing car manufacturers that already have existing established businesses, I believe SCG is the one mostly likely to both survive and thrive. SCG has been approved as a US NHTSA Low Volume Manufacturer which allows SCG to make 325 road-legal cars per year. In fact though, SCG is not exactly new to the automotive business, they built their first car, the P4/5 back in 2009 and will have two road cars, the SCG 003S and the 004S in production shortly. The 004S will be the first 3-seater produced since the McLaren F1 and will likely beat the McLaren Speedtail to market by a few months. There are three additional cars in development post the 003 & 004 so the longer-term direction for the company is clear. While very ambitious, SCG also seems to be on very firm financial footing with a highly committed, wealthy, and experienced owner.
Of the two racing car manufacturer entries, the Dallara Stradale is a road legal track car and the un-named Ginetta supercar looks to be a Dodge Viper that fell into a vat of steroids. The Dallara Stradale is a bare bones barchetta with doors, a windshield, and a T-bar roof all as optional extras. It makes a Jaguar XJR-15 look practical. The Ginetta supercar has a targeted top speed of 200 mph and a 600 bhp front mounted engine, specs which are frankly quite ordinary by today’s supercar standards. At least it isn’t as bad as the ATS GT which appears to be a McLaren 12C in a body kit for a bit over a $1 mil.
Net net, it is a very interesting time to be a supercar collector and enthusiast. Competition is driving innovation and the number of choices continue to expand. McLaren has proven that with the right resources and a clear vision, new manufacturers can succeed. Both Pagani & Koenigsegg have proven that there is a viable market for multimillion-dollar bespoke automobiles. While the vast majority of the supercar manufacturers are based in Europe, SCG looks set to prove that a low volume US based manufacturer can succeed in the supercar market. I’ll be interested to see what new information and surprises emerge in Geneva next week.
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