When Supercars Became Everyday Cars

Mclaren at cars and coffee

Credit: A. Pardes

Why Do We See So Many Supercars Today?

I’m a big motorhead and have a lifetime love for cars. Specifically German cars. So when I turned up at my local Cars & Coffee meet up this Sunday morning I was shocked by what I saw.

This wasn’t the typical Cars & Coffee meet up at my local group but was a special event. It was sponsored by a local dealership and it was held at the empty parking lot of our local shopping mall.

It was totally jam-packed and the biggest event ever held by this Cars & Coffee group that I remember. But that wasn’t what was so shocking to me. What was shocking to see was the rows and rows of parking spots filled with high end exotic and luxury cars. We’ll talk the about the “creme de creme” of the world’s dream cars – Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bentleys, etc.

Lambo and Audi R8

Credit: A. Pardes

What you really didn’t see was the local everyday cars that the average motorhead brings to these events. Run of the mill BMWs, Corvettes, muscle cars from the 60’, Japanese sports cars from the 90’s. No, this event was totally different.

I don’t recall ever seeing so many exotics at one spot, and at one location. And then an epiphany hit me – the Supercars of today are longer unattainable. In the past when you see an exotic or supercar on the streets it was a moment to savor, something to revel in and tell your fellow motorhead friends. But today seeing all these modern supercars just lined up in a row like a bunch of Honda Civics it didn’t seem real.

Today was the realization that today’s Supercars are really everyday cars.

Now I’m not saying that these cars are now cheaper to buy or that Ferrari is having a fire sale that you weren’t told about. No, what I’m saying is that luxury cars are just more obtainable due to many factors that exist today.

I call it the Massification of Luxury Automotive.

Back in the 1980’s

I start with the cost of luxury and exotic automobiles as a youth. Back in the 80’s, there were many cars that I admired for their engineering and prestige. One of them was the Mercedes Benz 560 SEL which was considered the most luxurious and the best luxury sedan you could buy in the 80’s (minus the super luxury chauffeured cars from brands like Rolls Royce).

A neighbor our ours had one and I always enjoyed seeing it in their driveway of their house as I walked to school.

1980's Mercedes-Benz 560 SELThe Mercedes Benz back then cost a cool $60,000 plus when new, this was the early 1980’s. In today’s cost when factoring inflation you are talking about the equal of $160,000 USD. Definitely not small pocket change for the average buyer.

But what made that price more staggering was that the financial options for buyers were much more limited than today. Back then there was no leasing programs, just financing. So to purchase a car like that you needed to put money down (say 10% to 20% of the total value of the car) and then finance the rest. And what were interest rates back then for automobile financing? Try 15%. For reference today you can finance a new car with rates as low as 2%. What all this meant was you needed to be affluent and cash liquid to purchase a car like the 560 SEL.

Why is it different today? Well, a top of the line Mercedes Benz sedan are still expensive. A modern S-Class sedan starts at $96,000 and goes all the way to almost $200,000 when you add all the necessary options. But the financial options for today’s buyer are totally different.

Today’s Choices for Supercars

Today you have the option to lease that car. Leasing is simple – you are basically renting the car for a set period of time (usually in monthly units) and you pay per month for the usage of the car. Say you are leasing the Mercedes Benz S-Class for 36 months. Its pre-determined what the value of the car would be at 36 months and you basically pay the ‘renting’ amount based on the variable factors of mileage allowed, interest rate (called the money factory) and money you down during the start of the lease term. This has simply made buying an expensive car more obtainable for the everyday consumer.

Ferrari and LamboWhat if you want to buy? Much easier due to cheap rates. As mentioned before buyers today can finance at rates as low as 2% and stretch payments to 7 years! Options like this have made any supercar financially obtainable if the ultimate goal is to own a supercar at all costs.

This, in turn, it has opened the market to more consumers who are typically not defined as super-wealthy and who we in the past thought would be buying these kinds of cars.

I’m not even going to go into the culture of YouTube and the car vloggers who have made a whole industry of videotaping themselves and their ‘supercars’ on a daily basis to the internet. (Oh hi Glenn!)

Which goes back to that Sunday at Cars & Coffee. A scene like that day would not be possible 20 years ago but seems like part of today’s 21st Century car culture.

Sometimes the things rarer are the things most cherished.

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