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April 11, 2014

News & Features

$63K paint jobs? Supercar options for the super-rich

New York Times News Service

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Clockwise from top left: Bentley's back-seat bottle chiller with champagne flutes; a gold Rolls-Royce hood ornament; Porsche's steering wheel and key fob options. (Photos from manufacturers and Ann Johansson / The New York Times)

Up a flight of stairs from the Porsche Personal Design Studio on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Calif. — in a room of modernist sofas and chairs, low white coffee tables and oversize video monitors — is the Porsche Exclusive suite. Prospective car buyers come to this luxury lounge to optimize their accessories. Here, they can choose precisely the right options to maximize their vehicular happiness.

They can caress a sample of the leather that, for $380, will soon cover the fuse box of their new Porsche 911. Or they can marvel at the $2,070 personalized and illuminated carbon-fiber doorsill guards of their Panamera Turbo S. Go ahead, put your signature on your sills.

Priciest package
    The single most expensive option is on a Porsche. Opting for the Weissach Package on the 918 Spyder increases its price by $84,000. The package mostly involves saving weight through substitutions such as titanium wheels and the elimination of features including air conditioning and the sound system.

Or maybe they'll request a color sample of the Liquid Metal Chrome Blue paint available on the 918 Spyder hybrid supercar. (It adds $63,000 to the car's $847,975 base price.)
That's right: $63,000 for paint.

Here, have a glass of wine while contemplating the luster, sheen and brilliance.
"We don't sell cars; we just help in coming up with ideas," says Sascha Glaeser, the German-born manager of the Personal Design Studio. "The dealers still sell the cars and, to be honest, they get more money, because when people talk to us, they tend to add more options to the cars."

Picking and choosing from long lists of options was once a normal part of the car-buying process. Today, it's a luxury experience reserved almost exclusively for high-end machines retailing in the six- and seven-figure stratosphere. And those options have grown ever more indulgent.

For example, there's the $9,875 teak decking available on a Rolls-Royce convertible, the Phantom Drophead Coupé. Or the $10,545 frosted-glass bottle chiller with bespoke crystal champagne flutes that Bentley offers in its Mulsanne sedan. At this rarefied level, the $390 that Bentley charges for a "jewel fuel-filler cap" on the Mulsanne seems modest (although it is, of course, only a gas cap).

Incidentally, Costco's website lists a mini-fridge at $149.99 and four monogrammed champagne flutes for $129.99. O'Reilly Auto Parts sells MasterPro plastic gas caps for $9.99 and up.

Largely because of the success and influence of Japanese automakers such as Toyota and Honda in the 1970s and '80s, it became common for mass-market automakers to bundle popular options together into packages or trim levels.

"Streamlined product lineups makes ordering cars (and selling them) at dealerships much easier," says Jessica Caldwell, an analyst for auto-information site Edmunds.com.
So things that were once available only as options on most cars — such as power windows and locks, stereo systems and air conditioning — are now standard features even on mass-market cars.

The 2014 Honda Accord sedan, for instance, is available in six trim levels, but there are no stand-alone factory-installed choices except the paint and upholstery color. The base-level stick-shift Accord LX comes in two paint colors: silver or darker silver.

In contrast, Rolls-Royce offers its least-expensive car, the $267,300 Ghost sedan, in 87 hues of paint. While 15 of those are offered at no extra cost, the 72 others add $9,450 to the sticker price. If none of those is exactly what you want, Rolls will paint the car virtually any way you like — say, to match your teacup Maltese — as part of its custom bespoke program for $13,375.

And, to finish the car, the "Spirit of Ecstasy" hood ornament is available in a silver finish strikingly illuminated from below ($3,625), in crystal lighted from within ($7,100) or plated in gold ($9,100).

Many, if not most, of the dearest options on high-end cars aim to make the owner's conspicuous consumption even more conspicuous. Ferrari will add yellow Scuderia Ferrari shields featuring the company's prancing horse emblem to the fenders of the 458 Italia coupe for an additional $1,620.

Many carbon-fiber exterior trim pieces are available from Ferrari, including an $8,267 rear air diffuser. Of course, that is a mere warm-up act for the glory of the engine (helpfully displayed under clear glass), which can be finished in thousands of dollars of carbon fiber, starting with a $9,312 manifold and a $4,133 box for the air filter.ot to be outdone, Lamborghini suggests that if buyers want to show off the V-12 engine in their $449,095 Aventador Roadster, they should fork over $7,550 more for the transparent engine cover.

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