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Does Anyone Buy the Base Model of an Exotic or Luxury Car?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro July 2017

Hello and welcome to the latest round of Ask Doug, everyone's favorite car question-and-answer session, wherein you "ask Doug" a nice question about something related to cars, and then Doug completely ignores your question in favor of a different question from someone with a weird name.

If you'd like to participate in Ask Doug, you can! Just email me your question at OversteerDoug@gmail.com, and I will ponder it for several minutes before deciding your name is not weird enough to dignify your question with a response.

With that in mind, today's question comes from a reader I've named Aloysius. Aloysius says:

Hey Doug,

In several of your videos on exotic cars, I've noticed you say something like, "The base price of this car is $300,000, but you can add options that will make it closer to $400,000..." (or something similar). My question is, does anyone in the market for a Bentley Mulsanne actually buy the base model?

Thanks and keep up the great work,

Aloysius

Interesting question, Aloysius, and I'm going to give you a short version and a long version. The short version is: No. The long version will take the rest of this column.

It starts here: The world of exotic and luxury car pricing is absolutely out of control at the moment. I mean absolutely out of control. I owned a 2004 Ferrari 360 Modena, and the original sticker price -- with options -- was something like $160,000. Thirteen years later, the modern version of that car, the Ferrari 488 GTB, starts at $255,000, and options go from there. And boy, do they go: Virtually every 488 leaves the showroom with a sticker price starting with a "3." In other words, these cars have ballooned in cost so much that they've doubled in just over a decade.

Ferrari isn't the only one guilty of this. I recently wrote a column about how the Audi R8 was such a bargain when it first came out, as it started at $110,000. You know what the current base price of an Audi R8 is? $162,900. And the average asking price for a new R8 on Autotrader is $194,000, suggesting the average car gets $31,000 in options. Thirty grand! You could buy a new Camry with the cost of extras for an Audi R8!

The reason for this, Aloysius, is that exotic cars simply don't come standard with all that much stuff. Yes, sure, they have the basics, but if you're buying an exotic car, you want all the cool stuff, and the cool stuff just costs more. I was in a new Ferrari last week, and I checked the window sticker, and the following things are options: front axle lifter, passenger display screen, panoramic roof, aluminum rev counter, Apple CarPlay, colored stitching and dual-view front parking cameras. Sure, you could skip all that stuff. But do you really want to be the guy who didn't get Apple CarPlay in a $300,000 car when everyone else did?

That thinking, in fact, has led some dealers to openly tell buyers that they must order certain options. This is a pretty common thing now, especially with ultra-high-end brands that require a contract with the buyer saying he or she will offer first right of refusal to the dealer should that buyer decide to sell the car within a certain timeframe. If the buyer sells quickly or simply decides not to take delivery of the car, dealers don't want to be stuck with a dud that doesn't have the cool stuff -- so they basically insist the buyer order certain options.

Sounds crazy? It is -- but here are three actual "must-get options" stories I've heard, with only the details removed. One: In the past (and maybe still today), if you visit one certain luxury brand's online car configurator, you can select whichever colors you wish -- but if you choose a color the brand deems ugly, you're told it isn't "recommended," and you're charged extra.

Another one: I've heard some dealerships will make you sign a letter verifying you understand you're foregoing certain options the dealership has highly recommended, such is the potential damage to your resale value.

And finally, my favorite: I once was part of a great story wherein a certain customer ordered a certain luxury vehicle with zero options. None. Not one. Not a recommended one. Not a strange one. Nothing. In fact, the only option this customer chose was "sunroof delete." The customer would therefore be charged the base price of this vehicle, which was (for example) something like $60,000. The dealer, so fearful of getting stuck with this dud car that didn't have a single extra, insisted on a deposit -- and not just any deposit... half. In cash. Up front. That's how much they thought they'd lose if they had to sell a luxury car with no "options."

And so, no, Aloysius, options aren't really optional. Nobody pays the base price. If you're buying a new supercar, budget a little extra for the extras. Like maybe a Camry or two.

 Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Does Anyone Buy the Base Model of an Exotic or Luxury Car? - Autotrader