Creating new market segments in the automotive industry takes Balls… Bugatti created the Hypercar market space when the Veyron hit the scene and Ferrari created the High Performance Track Only market… both these sectors now define the ultra exclusive car market where even having the money is sometimes not enough the get a piece of the action…
Ferrari kicked this off with what emerged from an ingenious idea to use very limited edition cars developed exclusively for the track as special development tools and sold to their top tier of customers… enter the FXX of 2005, the 599XX and the FXX K.
The Ferrari Corse Clienti customer racing program gives exclusive access to Scuderia Ferrari F1 technology and personal via a very canny program that invites members of this club to be part of the development for future Ferrari models… Owners of these cars take part in track events and technical test sessions over the year and are monitored by Maranello’s finest from arguably the world’s most famous racing team… This is the ultimate experiential thank you for the chosen ones to get fully immersed into the Ferrari Family and to have a seat at the top table … a step closer to “il Commendatore” for the ultimate Tifosi.
Entry to the Top Guncomes only to the most loyal clienti and by invitation only but coupled to a significant payment, $2.7M in the case of the FXX K.
This market segment now has to be applauded, not only as a super club for special customers who can be part of a development program but as a legitimate offer to experience ultra high performance levels only seen as part of an F1 team or a top sports car racing equipe by delving into the finer detail in the world of hyper detail and minuscule marginal gains.
Other brands have taken the Ferrari model and evolved their own Halo program such as Aston Martin and McLaren however, these programs focus more on driver development and improvement than on future car development.
Unless owners are professional drivers, these tools are dangerous to the uninitiated and require taming in controlled environments and even the largest of ego’s want to be seen to perform well, to improve, to out-perform the last lap time. Ownership offers exclusive driver sessions, tutoring and mentoring coupled with access to professional drivers.
To reduce the ‘cock up’ potential for example, the Aston Martin Vulcan program owners go though hours of simulator training as well as a step up process through the Aston suite such as the V12 Vantage S, DB11, and the Vantage GT4 race car before unleashing them in the awesome V12 7.0 litre 820 bhp Vulcan with an instructor. Also the Vulcan has multiple driving modes so rookies start out at the 500-hp level and slowly, increase the horses up to max but only when the instructors feel that the drivers are ready and safe. Being part of this program comes with a $2.3M ticket to ride.
Like the Aston Martin program, McLaren’s P1 GTR offers driver focused performance but is nuanced in that owners are selected in that they are invited as owners of one of the 375 road-legal P1’s who are eligible to purchase a P1 GTR which together come at a combined cost of $3.1 million.
This program offers owners the experience to hoon around circuits such as Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia, the Circuit of the Americas Silverstone and the Yas Marina.
The GTR experience provides racing-intensive 3 -day events specifically designed to help tame the 986 hp track-only missile with each driver receiving individual coaching based on experience and ability from a team of McLaren professionals and drivers. Of course the rookie racers also get time in the McLaren’s simulator in order to safely develop confidence with the P1 GTR’s power and performance without the usual limitations of road or racing restrictions.
The members of these exclusive clubs are likely to be Apex predators who may have built up business empires, they will ooze confidence and ego and live in a world of high expectations, these experiences need to be very special indeed, a lot is at stake for the marque when opening up the doors to their most converted VVIP clients.
Operationally these programs are complex and require super concierge levels of service with the OEM handling bespoke demands, hotel and restaurant reservations to logistics of getting cars from all over the world to one track location, sometimes at short notice.
What links these programs is that the individual is not only extremely wealthy but likely to have significant brand loyalty, Ferrari, invite you, McLaren need you to have bought a P1 for example. These are extremely small clubs and attention to every detail is essential and underline that ownership and experience are inextricably linked.
These programs should be applauded as the ultimate testament to brand loyalty and access albeit for the super rich, but we are likely to see more marques developing this model and openly inviting clients to gain intimate access to the heart of a brand and the heady atmosphere of the experiential best…