It's not every year that Rolls-Royce releases a convertible. So it makes sense that the carmaker's $412,000 Drophead Coupe, which goes on sale in September, has a waiting list that's about two years worth of production.
But the Drophead Coupe isn't the only vehicle making news. Other most-wanted wheels range from a relative economy car from Volvo, to the first luxury-brand hybrid from Lexus, to an all-wheel drive Audi, the carmaker’s fastest to date.
They all have certain things in common. Auto enthusiasts are salivating over these 2008 model year cars, many of which have a waiting list. These cars have a big impact on the brands they represent — more than likely, an impact out of proportion to the expected sales volumes — and most of them, like the high-performance, 2008 BMW M3, are new versions of an existing model name. This illustrates an age-old, auto industry balancing act: “new-and-improved” versus “tried-and-true.”
Take the Audi R8. In the mid-1980s, the carmaker's brand awareness was the wrong kind, thanks to the “unintended acceleration” debacle. Owners of the Audi 5000 model claimed back then that no matter how hard they stood on the brakes, the cars took off by themselves, sometimes with unspeakably tragic, fatal results.
At the time, Audi’s reaction was blunt: the owners were accidentally stepping on the gas, not the brakes. After years of investigation, Audi was exonerated, but the damage to the brand image was done. At one point, some New York City parking garages had signs that said, “No Audi 5000s.” Audi nearly disappeared in the United States.
Today, the Audi brand is a comeback story.
Leaving nothing to chance, Audi of America has run full-page ads in newspapers including The New York Times to call attention to the R8 and to an accompanying brand advertising campaign, in which Audi bills itself as “The Truth” in luxury cars.
Auto lovers are waiting to see if the carmaker will deliver on its promise of vehicle verite.
Another keenly anticipated car is the 2008 Cadillac CTS, on sale in September. It's got a 300-hp V6 engine that's almost 50 percent more powerful than the slightly smaller V6 it replaces.
This August, aficionados will find the Infiniti G37 coupe gracing lots. It gets all new styling and a new, 3.7-liter (hence the ''37'' in G37) V6 engine. At 330 hp, it's about 20 percent more powerful than the old engine, with better gas mileage.
Rounding out the list? A Porsche Cabriolet, Maserati GranTurismo and Mercedes Benz SLR McLaren Roadster. All smart drives — if you can get your hands on one.