Hate the smell of exhaust or the skunk you just passed on the highway? If you buy the Maybach 62 Zeppelin, your nose will never have to suffer again. The car comes with a built-in, illuminated atomizer that gently diffuses the fragrance of your choice throughout the cabin.
Granted, that peace of mind will cost you — to the tune of $506,500. But that's the low end when looking at the limits of what money can buy at the dealership. For a whopping $1.8 million you can get the Cinque Roadster, which features a stunning 678 horsepower V12 engine, carbon fiber racing seats, a titanium suspension and a 0-60 mph time of 3.3 seconds.
But those who still don't want to be outdone should consider the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport or the Koenigsegg CCXR, both of which cost more than $2 million.
The auto industry may have fallen considerably this year, but that doesn't mean those who can afford to spend six- or seven-figure sums on a luxury vehicle are lacking options.
Behind the numbers
To compile our list of the most expensive cars this year, we reviewed price lists from all the ultra-luxury automakers that had the potential to produce a contender this year for the top spot, including Bentley, Bugatti, Ferrari, Koenigsegg, Lamborghini, Leblanc, Maserati, Maybach, Mercedes-Benz, Pagani, Porsche, Rolls-Royce, Saleen, Shelby SuperCars and Spyker.
We narrowed our terms for the list by choosing only cars that are currently in production and street legal, which eliminated the discontinued $653,000 Enzo Ferrari, $585,000 Saleen S7 and $500,000 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster, among others. Prices do not include taxes; some prices have been converted from euros to dollars. And not all of the vehicles on our list are sold in the U.S.
It's been a mixed bag this year for purveyors of ultra-luxury cars. Maybach sold 12 cars last month - the same amount it sold in July of this year. Rolls-Royce sold twice that, up 50 percent over July. Ferrari, Maserati and Bentley saw relatively routine year-over-year declines of 10 percent, 31 percent and 43 percent, respectively. But all of them except Rolls are down more than 50% in a year when the total auto industry saw a comparatively small 28 percent decrease year-to-date.
When sales do bounce back, expect luxury cars to recover slower than traditional segments. Lincoln Merrihew, the managing director of automotive, petroleum and travel for Compete, a unit of the market research firm TNS, says the delayed recovery is due in part to the fact that these cars never see Cash for Clunkers-type incentives. They also have a shelf-life that matters: The difference between one model year and another is significant for collectors and connoisseur-investors, who notice even the most minute changes in body styling, horsepower or interior trappings.
But more than anything, even people who can afford to buy a $1.5 million Lamborghini Reventon LINK are going to think about just when and how to make the purchase, if at all, Merrihew says.
"There have been times when the U.S. was in recession or Japan was in recession or Europe was, but the rest of the world wasn't," he says. "This time, it's a global event — so there isn't a safe haven for these products, and even their distinctiveness isn't going to help."
The price of luxury
According to Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Manhattan-based Luxury Institute, the custom-built options and concierge-like service the very wealthy expect in their cars will keep them coming back to Rolls-Royce and Bentley, even in hard times.
A heady mix of image, exclusivity, design and racing technology makes these cars expensive. The Pagani Zonda F Roadster runs on a V12 Mercedes-Benz AMG engine, but it costs almost $1 million more than the McLaren Roadster, which also has an AMG engine, albeit with less power and racing technology. There's a certain component of exclusivity in that Pagani Zonda mark-up as well: Production is limited to 25 units.
Those who purchase a $1.4 million Pagani Zonda F Coupe are buying into a racing heritage — and Formula One engineering. The car's body design and specialized crash structure (built to maintain safety at ultra high speeds) are derived directly from race car aerodynamics.
Expensive cars also have bespoke qualities and standard amenities that connoisseurs simply can't get anywhere else. The $1.4 million Maybach Landaulet is a chauffeur-driven car with a top that can be opened fully at the rear, while the chauffeur's compartment remains completely enclosed. A partition screen with clear glass and curtains dissects the car, and folding tables in the back allow for afternoon Champagne lunches on the go — on reclining white-leather seats, of course. When the weather doesn't allow for such things, there's a Dunhill umbrella stowed in a special slot on the door.
While that may seem excessive, there's still a market. And industry experts say that ultra-luxury automakers must control production numbers, maintain superior service standards and invest in new technology if they want to survive — and thrive — during and after the recession.
When the wealthy are ready to start handing over their American Express cards again more freely, the automakers had better have something different and unique available.