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Change Our Mind #8: Covid-19 will save the supercar

Our writer puts his neck on the line to suggest the supercar has a future

Published: 11 May 2020

With the Bank of England forecasting the sharpest recession on record and UK car sales down NINETY SEVEN PER CENT in April, I’m going to make a prediction: Covid-19 will save the supercar. You’ll have to bear with me.

Over the last few years two things have happened that have worked together in seamless harmony to make the supercar market very, very vulnerable. Firstly, around 90 per cent of all new cars are bought on finance now, allowing people who can’t really afford fast metal to do so in instalments. Even the swanky end of the second-hand market is driven (or it was) by finance companies who can offer ‘attractive’ monthly repayments that get you behind the wheel of a slightly soiled Lamborghini for a fraction of the cost of your rent. Why on earth wouldn’t you?

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The other thing that’s coincided quite nicely with this upsurge in the never-never is an unprecedented spike in supply. Back in the Eighties, a Ferrari 328, by way of example, was a genuinely rare car. Few were made, fewer still imported to the UK and if you were one of the lucky ones who managed to jump the queue, you still waited years for it to show up. Nowadays you’re falling over Ferraris.

And it’s not just the legacy manufacturers who are jamming the pipe. McLaren is a relative upstart in the supercar stratosphere, but the MTC in Woking is pumping out cars like an oversexed queen bee. Throw off-the-wall entries like Koenigsegg into the mix, alongside wild cards like Audi’s R8 or the 911 Turbo, and you have an embarrassment of riches. For the often insufficiently rich.

Part of the problem stems from the likes of Ferrari and McLaren (worst culprits) slightly taking the piss out of their customer base. If you want the next Maranello unicorn, you need to impress the powers that be by owning everything else in between. That’s how you get on the list, and stay there. But when you finally get to buy that limited edition multi-million-pound sure-fire investment piece, you find it’s been superseded six weeks later by something newer, rarer, probably without a windscreen.

These sorts of antics upset your clientele, but they also kill the market. Back to McLaren. Those of you appropriately buried in automotive social media won’t have failed to notice that a couple of weeks ago a certain online auction site sold a 720S for £124,500. The car carried over £50,000 worth of options, meaning the 5,000-ish miles its original owner had enjoyed in two years cost him £133,500. That’s not what most would call value for money.

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The point being, the market is already flooded. And in the light of global financial ruination, it’s about to get flooded some more. Many of the more vulnerable manufacturers will not ride out the storm wreaked upon us by Covid-19. And demand for even the more established fare will be commensurately chastened by the fact that the overwhelming driver for the industry, namely people stretching themselves on tick, simply won’t be there anymore.

But there is a silver lining of sorts, and this is the bit where I stick my neck out: from the maelstrom will emerge a smaller, more considered, more cautious and less cynical industry building enduring, iconic cars in vastly smaller numbers for the obscenely wealthy elite. Just as it used to be when the supercar actually meant something. Resetting the global economy will reset a convoluted, free-wheeling industry that was starting to choke on its own avarice. Reflection, reassessment, all that good stuff. The supercar will win out and be all the better for it.

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