Hybrid Supercars, Now a Billion Dollar Industry

A little city in middle of Europe, with a population of only 200,000 people, just played host to the biggest parade of amazing toys man has ever created. The price, beauty and power of these four-wheeled creatures is only exceeded by the money auto companies are going to make. The floor of the Geneva Motor Show was flooded with rich people, all there to pick and choose between the most exciting cars shown in a decade – the new super-Ferrari and super-McLaren being at the very top of the totem pole.
Yesterday, Ferrari said that it has received over 1,000 requests for brand new LaFerrari, even though Maranello will not build a single one over 499 and despite the fact that most have never driven the car. Multiplying the thousand strong demand by the €1.3 million official price tag, we end up with a figure well over a billion dollars ($1.7 billion right now), just for Ferrari. Even though they will only make half that because of the limited production, company representatives lead us believe the same powertrain used by the 963 HP LaFerrari will also be used by another car, likely either the F12 or the FF. Add to that whatever bucks Porsche and McLaren will make and I begin to see a brand new industry forming, one for electrified million dollar automobiles. After that, Toyota, BMW and Honda will fill in the niche right underneath the super stallions by 2015.

Within the next couple of years, the hybrid supercar market will grow from basically nothing to dictating the pace and direction normal car development takes. The way I see it, all cars might soon have a gas tank on one side and a socket on the other, so these billionaire toys are teaching us valuable lessons.

Beyond the simple performance numbers, there are other, hugely important aspects of the hybrid supercar market. For example, the real reason why Ferrari might have called their ultimate car “LaFerrari” is to link it with their very successful clothing and apparel line. Selling 499 Enzo successors is one thing, but selling thousands of watches, $100 shirts and LaFerrari keychains is just as lucrative.

“LaFerrari” looks so much better on an overpriced cellphone than “P1”, don’t you think so?

As stupid as branded T-shirts are, we’re still in the golden age of supercars, and we should welcome these cars as they deserve, by examining the performance aspect. People who don’t earn enough to buy the cars of their dreams naturally assume the world’s richest don’t care about fuel prices or consumption. That’s not true!

Branding supercars “hybrid” sounds like putting a ballroom dress on a bodybuilder, but it’s not. For years, V12 supercar owners have been dogging Lamborghini and Ferrari to make theme cars that use less fuel, no matter the price. It’s a mater of pride for them. Filling up your Enzo ever couple of hundred yard is, for lack of better word, insulting. Why? Because these people like to spend money not throw it away, of course.

While all men are created equal, some are more equal than others. The same can be said about the hybrid Ferrari and McLaren presented in Geneva. For example, the McLaren’s advanced electric motor also spools up the turbos sometimes and can move the P1 around tine totally silently on battery power alone. On the other hand, Ferrari said they didn’t want to make an electric car since that didn’t fit the company philosophy, so their system focuses on being powerful and light.

Porsche meanwhile is preparing its own hybrid supercar called the 918 Spyder, which has more electric motors than a Japanese toilet. Their system is all-wheel drive, very complicated and very efficient, creating supermini-like level of fuel consumption.

So, do all these complicated electronics actually make cars faster, or would be have been far better off using turbos and bigger engines. If you ask me if these are just marketing gimmicks, I will admit that it’s possible, but that’s what we said about KERS when it was introduced in F1 and we were wrong.

The complexity of these systems brings me to the final facet of the hybrid supercar market, which is also the most important. Marketing sells cars, and the way I see it, the longer the press release is, the cooler the car becomes. Even the richest of buyers will totally geek out over all the details, and even today, they will gladly believe their cars are close relatives of F1 racers.

I’m not suggesting that with two years, thousands of electric supercars will roam our streets. The day when Ferrari makes the 458 replacement with a plug is the day hell freezes over. What the P1, LaFerrari and 918 will do is ignite people’s imaginations and prompt Toyota or GM to make something similar at 1/20 the price for the mass market. By that time, it will be obvious that hybrid supercars are a mass market, but you heard it here first.
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About the author: Mihnea Radu
Mihnea Radu profile photo

Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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