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The Sports Car Paradox

One of the main quarrels with the majority of sports cars out there – apart from the penis size jokes and the protests about killing the planet with anything that has more than 150 horsepower – is obviously the fact that they are expensive. Supercars are even worse from this point of view, with some of them costing as much as a large house in a pretty nice neighborhood.

On top of that, you can't fit a whole family into a supercar, but on the good side you can't drive a house either. Supercar overpricing isn't an actual problem though, especially since stuff like quality, performance, brand cachet and exclusivity usually makes up for at least some of those obnoxious prices.

As you already know, most of them are hand made and everyone knows that manual labour costs more than robots, especially if it's lovingly made by a small team of absolute masters in their respective line of work (I'm thinking about the Italians, the British and the Germans, mostly).

Not only that, but supercars usually use rarer materials, like carbon fiber, aluminium or magnesium during their build, which are also expensive to manufacture. Speaking of rarity, they also have pretty low production numbers, which also translates into higher costs of manufacturing, ergo, higher prices for the end client.

Alright, so after all is said and done, the high cost of supercar ownership is somewhat easy to comprehend, at least in part. But let's have a look at more down to Earth sports cars. Ever wondered why they have to be so much more expensive than family cars, for example? Am I the only one who fails to comprehend the reasoning for this? And most of all, why doesn't anyone complain abut it?

Let's take the Audi TT, for example. The small sports coupe is based on the Volkswagen PQ35 platform, just like... wait for it... twenty other car models from the Volkswagen Group. And I'm not even including the cars based on a stretched version of the PQ35, called PQ36. Considering so many different models are built on a single platform, I think it's safe to assume most of them, if not all, are profitable since everyone knows that the more numbers you build out of something the cheaper it gets.

Yet, the Audi TT is the costliest car based on its shared platform. Let's compare it for example with the second most expensive car based on the PQ35, which coincidentally is also an Audi – the A3.

An A3 built in Ingolstadt, by (presumably) better payed Germans, costs from five to over ten thousand euros less than a TT Coupe with the same type of engine and gearbox, built by (presumably) less payed Hungarians in Gyor. And yes, I know the A3 is not built exclusively in Germany, but that's beside the point.

So, let's recap. We have two cars that are built by the same company, under the same badge and share the same platform - including engines and gearboxes – yet one of them is much more expensive than the other. Can anyone tell me why exactly is a TT Coupe more expensive than the equivalent A3?

In theory, the TT should even cost a bit less to manufacture, so that's not the reason. It is also a much less practical car than the A3, so that's not either. Come to think of it though, its higher price isn't the issue here, but the fact that in the minds of both Audi's marketing folks and the consumer, its higher price is actually part of the car's appeal over a more family-oriented A3. I don't know about you but I find that to be quite odd.

You shouldn't get me wrong now, this is just an example at hand to prove a point, I have nothing against Audi or the TT Coupe. Sure, I find the Peter Schreyer-designed first generation much more appealing, but I really like both of them. I just don't get its price considering the things already discussed.

There are countless other similar examples out there, and in each one I fail to see the reasoning behind why the customers agree to the unwritten rule which stipulates that sports cars are not only halo cars for a brand, but cash cows as well. Remember, we're talking about mass-produced sports cars here, not some Italian carbon fiber work of art with twelve cylinders and the look of an alien insect.

It's downright insane if you really think about the amount of moolah most car makers are making on the back of sports car enthusiasts, who continue to buy their overpriced vehicles just because they have no other option.

Sometimes I wish we started our lives backwards, like in that famous Woody Allen quote, or like Benjamin Button. Since that will never happen, it is why most supercar owners today are old, rich guys, even though the cars themselves are in essence built for people with much more... agile reflexes.
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About the author: Alex Oagana
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Alex handled his first real steering wheel at the age of five (on a field) and started practicing "Scandinavian Flicks" at 14 (on non-public gravel roads). Following his time at the University of Journalism, he landed his first real job at the local franchise of Top Gear magazine a few years before Mircea (Panait). Not long after, Alex entered the New Media realm with the autoevolution.com project.
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