Hollywood Hypercar Wars: What It Takes to Own a Multimillion-Dollar Ride
Limited-production luxury vehicles now require a test of brand loyalty before a panel of judges and a deep dive into an applicant's social profile — with luck, that rejection letter won't come.
As the competition heats up among collectors to own the newest, fastest and rarest — i.e., limited- production, multimillion-dollar hypercars — luxury brands are adopting increasingly onerous vetting processes to select the lucky few. In the past, if you could write the check, the car was yours. But now, panels of judges evaluate online applications to assess such factors as past multiple purchases, social media profile and a track record of not flipping such investments for profit — nor having these cars idle as garage queens.
Ford, a brand not otherwise known as a rarefied player, delivered thousands of rejection letters after it received more than 6,500 online applications for 750 units of the new GT (starting price: $450,000), which won 2016's 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France. Boilerplate language — sample: "Unfortunately, we do not have enough Ford GTs to fulfill your request at this time" — provoked outraged threads across the web, as well as mixed feelings within the industry. "I tried to get on the list for the Ford GT as an exercise, and I did not succeed," CAA agent and noted car collector Hans Schiff says drily. "I did not make the cut."
Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book, who did make the cut, says, "Most of the people who didn't get one had shown minimal loyalty to Ford prior to wanting the new GT, simply because it's rare." The process (which the company is unlikely to set in motion again due to the kerfuffle) began with application questions about the customer's relationship to the brand, followed by a panel, says Henry Ford III, Ford performance marketing manager and great-great-grandson of his namesake. "We sat down as a global team," involving dozens of people in every region, "and had to make some tough decisions to rank who we thought fit the profile for a buyer. Each candidate's social profile is part of that equation." While there is no set cut-off number for a buyer's social following, someone like DJ Skee was given the opportunity to slap down $157,000 for a Mercedes-AMG GT R Green Hell because of his 450,000 Instagram and 429,000 Twitter followers.
Other brands are adopting a pre-vetting process for determining who wins the opportunity to buy limited editions. All 106 of the McLaren BP23, a $2.5 million three-seater that doesn't even come to market until 2019, were sold out before the car was announced to the public. Only faithful brand fans were approached — likely Elon Musk, Jay Leno and the Sultan of Brunei, who purchased one of the 106 McLaren F1 cars produced before 1998 for $815,000, now worth $14 million. Other hypercars coming online include the Ferrari LaFerrari Aperta, Aston Martin Valkyrie and Vulcan, Lamborghini Centenario and Bugatti Chiron. All 918 of Porsche's 918 model, a million-dollar-plus hypercar, were sold soon after launch, as were all 911 of the $185,000 911 R models before they hit showroom floors.
Porsche collector Spike Feresten, former Seinfeld writer and current host of Car Matchmaker, was told by a Porsche public relations rep that he was turned down for a 911 R: "I had fake outrage but was also relieved I didn't have to write such a big check." Producer Dana Brunetti, who collects Ferraris, says sometimes not trying is the path of least disappointment: "When they announced the LaFerrari, I couldn't afford it — but if I could afford it and I couldn't get one, I would be upset and maybe even offended." At least entertainment people can draw consolation from their infamous thick skin, says Feresten: "No one likes rejection, but in this business, we deal with it constantly. You take a day to process the emotions, then you dust yourself off and call the McLaren dealer!"
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FORD GT: With Ford's billion-dollar-plus investment, the GT (from $450,000) is a losing proposition. Yet, says Matthew DeBord, author of Return to Glory: The Story of Ford’s Revival and Victory at the Toughest Race in the World: "It's the halo car of all halo cars; it gets Ford on the map."
PORSCHE 918: This hypercar (currently starting at $1.5 million) came with a VIP program that grants first right of refusal on all limited-production vehicles. Porsche "reserves the right to revoke … privileges if any of the terms … are breached," including if the car is sold for markup soon after purchase.
MERCEDES-AMG GT R: Lacking a major social media profile? Says Ron Robertson of Mercedes-Benz of Beverly Hills: "To get a car like the upcoming and very expensive Mercedes-AMG hypercar (from $157,000), my advice is to be very rich, very famous and be a very big consumer of Mercedes-Benz products."
This story first appeared in the Aug. 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.