Bye, Bye, Bugatti Veyron

No supercar is fabulous enough to justify forking over $1 million. Pro or con?

UPDATE! Watch the streaming video or download it as a video podcast via iTunes

Pro: Settle for a Porsche

Let me preface this argument by noting that like most red-blooded males, I find so-called supercars—exotic vehicles with superlative performance, audacious bodywork, and six-figure price tags—a perennial source of excitement and fascination. But here’s why no car, super or otherwise, is worth $1 million.

With mileage in the single digits, such vehicles typically burn more oil than a refinery fire, consuming an unseemly amount of fuel even by the ultra-wealthy’s standards. At full bore, the vaunted Veyron goes through an entire tank of gas in just 12 minutes. Where exactly is the kick in squandering natural resources and pumping CO2 into the atmosphere as fast as possible?

These cars are also dangerous. In the largest car market in the world, California, accidents involving Aston Martins, Bentleys, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Lotuses, and Maseratis rose to 141 last year, an 81% increase from 2002, while crashes of more pedestrian makes dropped, according to the state’s highway patrol. It’s no coincidence that Web sites like WreckedExotics.com, which hosts hundreds of pictures of totaled dream machines, have experienced a surge in submissions.

The best supercars may have a knack for filling us with pride and lust, glee and envy, but in practice, few deliver much more than an overly steroidal driving experience. Most are plagued by excessively harsh rides and deafening engine noise, often making them literally exhausting to drive. In addition, their penchant for being mechanically temperamental nixes day-to-day driving.

Ultimately, the real thrill of driving is the result of a vehicle’s balance, not excessive power. That’s what makes cars like the Porsche (PSHG_P.DE) 911 Turbo a much better choice. At $126,200, the iconic sports car isn’t exactly an economy ride. It rockets from 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds, but still manages to return highway mileage around 25 mpg. Cars like this are safer, more reliable, and, yes, more fun to drive.

Con: Respect the Sublime

Yes, exotic supercars like the 1001 hp, 253-mph Bugatti Veyron are utterly indulgent machines offering gratuitous levels of speed, but why is that any different from a four-person family moving into a 30-room mansion? Everybody spends money and time differently. These are emotional, not rational, purchases. Who are we to judge?

For all the talk about eco-friendly vehicles and tree-hugging consumers, a lot of fuel-sucking supercars sure are entering the market. Sales for Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Aston Martin are all up through the first eight months of 2007, according to the Automotive News data center. At this month’s Frankfurt Motor Show, Bugatti and Lamborghini unveiled special edition models priced around $1.4 million.

A special five-car production run of the Veyron, called the Pur Sang (pure blood), offers reduced curb weight thanks to slick-looking carbon fiber and aluminum bodywork. The Pur Sang Veyron cost $1.9 million (before tax and delivery charges), and the production run sold out in 24 hours. These über-Veyrons add to the 100 "base" Veyrons that Bugatti has already sold to date. And despite all the rumors, a Bugatti spokesman assures me that the company is making money on the Veyron project (BusinessWeek, 9/17/07).

And Lamborghini just pulled the wraps off of the Reventon, a fighter-jet-inspired version of its flagship LP640. Only 20 of these more powerful, specially bodied supercars will be produced. The price tag is $1 million, and all 20 have already been sold.

Power, speed, exclusivity, and yes, high price tags, sell. If your pockets are deep and your automotive exuberance high, it is a good time to be in the market for an exotic vehicle.

Most important, cars like the Bugatti Veyron are not just showpieces for hedge fund managers to impress the neighbors. They are the stuff that childhood dreams are made of. They are the posters cluttering your kids’ school lockers. And the innovation and technology harnessed during supercar development is very often passed down to higher-volume production cars made under the company umbrella. In Bugatti’s case, its parent company, Volkswagen, can pass insights down to one of its many subsidiaries, such as Audi.

The Verdict: Reserve judgment until you experience 0 to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds.

Opinions and conclusions expressed in the BusinessWeek Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of BusinessWeek, BusinessWeek.com, or The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Reader Comments

scotteyg

I would pay a lot of money to own a car that goes 0 to 60 in 2.5 seconds!

Payam

Great argument, Mr. Schwartzapfel. Your presentation and critiques are on the money. I am going to buy one myself next week. Shall I pick you up?

Eric Augusta

It's an emotional purchase, not a rational one. The manufacturer, wholesaler, and retail seller's markups on luxury goods such as autos, watches, and electronic equipment are very high compared to goods marketed to the masses. That is why these are made. The rich need somewhere and some way to spend their money and feel good about it.

katie

I'd say it's a draw. I don't think we can blame the cars for careless, idiot drivers, but I also think spending that much on something that's more of a novelty or toy than anything else is a bit excessive.

Andrew

I can think of worse investments than paying $1 million for this car. You can't drive a Barry Bond baseball anywhere.

Women won't be nearly as impressed with a 1909 Honus Wagoner baseball card, and it costs twice as much as the Bugatti.

A million dollars can barely buy you a fixer-upper house in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, or New York.

A million can buy you about 380,000 Big Macs. But then who's going to pay for the $200,000 triple bypass?

Bottom line is that anyone who can afford to buy the $1 million Bugatti probably isn't considering the opportunity cost in the way people with average means do.

Posting here is still free, except for the 3 cents for the electricity and 1/20,000th of $40 a month for Internet (approximately 2 minutes).

Maureil

Owning a car like the Buggati Veyron is a privilege, and only those who can afford it can have it. Therefore it makes the car more valuable, and to those who want it and can't afford it, it makes them work harder to obtain a fine piece of machinery that only comes out to production once in a lifetime. So they should keep on making the car until people can't afford it.

Sue

Why not pay $1 million for a car? If you can't afford anything else, you can live in it.

Meghna

I agree with Andrew. People with big money are not making choices between investments. They are simply making use of the excess money they earn. And rightly so. They work smart and hard to achieve their material dreams. Who cares about the mileage when you have so much money to blow?

Erin

Stuart said it best: Don't judge until you experience it. I'm available anytime after 6!

If you have the funds to own and maintain a Veyron, you are typically in the echelon of people who aren’t counting their pennies. Why not add to the fun and spring for the Pur Sang version?

MaTeO

All of you who don't like exotic cars--it's because you can't afford one.

Michael

Think of $1 million supercars as mechanical works of art, both aesthetically and mechanically. Some people pay that kind of money for a picture. Would you call that ridiculous?

Amol

We ultimately live to make our dreams come true, to fulfill our desires. They may be not the priorities or dreams to all. But chasing our dreams to achieve superiority is the basis for human progress. People go through unfair means to achieve their dreams, but things that are going to help us find new horizons are purely through development. These supercars are my dreams, and I'm chasing them and developing myself. Those who produce them are great people and help us develop.

So, welcome the technology of the future.

Craig

Frankly, the pro column was insultingly pedantic with its "safety" message. Sure, accidents involving supercars are up, but a supercar is still far less likely to be in an accident than a regular car, even when looked at on a per-mile basis.

anonymous

At the top end of performance, they are also the top end of engineering. There is no other car built like the Veyron. It is not only about going fast but also about stopping safely from 400 kilometers an hour. It is also about having the car not fly off the road. It is also about building the smallest engine that can deliver maximum power. It may not be apparent now, but all this technology will eventually filter down to the commoners' Golfs, Focuses, and Corollas. OK, maybe not directly, but indirectly, so that the common car does not fly off the road if driven too fast and can stop safely in an emergency.

jerseyjay

Hey Matt,
You had better not tell Liz Taylor that she would have been better off with a smaller diamond from Richard Burton. I don't believe that all of the owners of Cigarette or Donzi yachts would share your narrow, incorrect view. The cars you are dissing make up an infinitesimal percentage of the auto population, and furthermore, they are usually driven very little. For all practical purposes, they are not even a rounding error with regard to pollution of any kind. Why not try to rein in all of the diesel-spewing trucks that are each on the road for at least 100,000 miles per annum. Think what unregulated harm they do to the air we try to breathe. People who work hard and are successful desire something to shoot for. Have you seen the prices of so-called collectible watches, pens, or art lately? Bottom line, Matt: Get real.

??????????

Hey, let me ask you people something. Would you buy expensive cars? Because they're fast? Wrong. They're all the same because if you drive fast in a Ferrari, you can get caught. So if you can't drive fast on the road, where else can you drive fast?
mud

HaveUnderstanding

I love mine. Well worth every penny.

mustang99

This is very much like buying a million-dollar Picasso. Do I relly need it? Absolutely not. Does it make me feel good? Oh yeah!

SP

To the point that a lot of fuel-sucking cars are pumped out in the market, it's not just the supercars. There are definitely more non-hybrid than hybrid models out there today. While I'm all for environmentally friendly cars, these supercars aren't really the bigger issue here--they probably aren't driven nearly as much as the regular cars. So I guess all of us who are not "hybrid" are probably just as guilty. The difference is that the folks who buy these beauties chunk out a lot of dough--would be nice if any of that got invested in alternate-energy research. Maybe, just maybe, a couple decades (or more) from now, we'll have hybrid supercars that are just as remarkable.

As for whether one should pay this much money for it at all, it's the price of exclusivity. That's just how it goes and quite fairly so. While I may judge people for squandering money that they didn't earn, I wouldn't judge them for spending their money on a dream car. Yes, there are more responsible ways to spend money, but who are we to tell them? It's their money. As a lot of others pointed out, we don't really do that about other collectibles. Plus, who knows what we would have done if we had that much money.

LT

First of all, the Veyron, like all Bugattis in the past, isn't just fast. It is also luxurious and wonderful to drive. Second, the people who would buy one are in such a different income bracket that the argument of buying something more cost-efficient probably doesn't have the same meaning it would to mere mortals like me. Third, chances are good that the person who owns a Veyron probably also has something like a Porsche Turbo sitting in his garage for his "everyday" car.

Robert

I read that, in California, accidents have risen by some 140%. This has nothing to do with the cars but rather with the people who drive those cars. Were they using drugs or alcohol?

M.S.

Bugatti Veyron is the car. Sure, it's fast, it's sleek, and costs well more than what the average person makes. But hell, if I had more than $1 million, I'd probably buy one, too. And not just for the speed, but the style, the look, the fact that I'd get to wash that car anytime of the day, feel great riding in the car, and just touching it would probably be like having an orgasm. Nothing tops a Bugatti Veyron.

samuelson76

Nobody has so much money without having done some monkey business somehow.

jem

That's not true. My dad has had two or three Ferraris, and he just got an Aston Martin. He is the CEO of his own business. Not all people who have money to blow are doing some monkey business--some people just work hard.

hrco_croatia_zg

Veyron is a good car but ugly. Ferrari Enzo and Pagani Zonda are the best choices.

Usman

We don't buy exotic cars for the way they look, drive, or garner attention. We buy those cars for the way they make us feel.

That last word above is worth every penny of a Veyron's cost of ownership.

j

If you have to ask... You know the rest.

Notis

These cars are made for people who have driving skills and have the money. You may not have skills, but you must have the money.

Who is the maniac who would go for 12 minutes with this car at full throttle? And we must admit that there are no dangerous cars, only dangerous drivers.

kenny

That car just sucks.

Choice

Stop drinking Haterade, you non-Veyron-lovers.

Gary

Twenty-six gallons in 12 minutes? Is that possible? The local gas station in my area seems to take that long just to pump 18 gallons.

Horace Lopez

This is a masterpiece of engineering. It is the maximum humans have achieved since the invention of the wheel. This is about mechanics, physics, and creativity to the edge on wheels. The only thing is that, to experience all this at this level, you must be a millionaire.

Don

Seems like utter overkill to me. Why pay $1 million for the Bugatti when you can fork over $50,000 for a Lotus Elise and have just as much fun?

anonymous

A Lotus Elise doesn't go from 0 to 60 in 2.5, and it sucks. The Veyron just rocks.

Jeremy

The argument against is riddled with flaws.

Accident rates are up on exotic cars, because there are so many more--the exotic car market is and has been booming for years. Especially in California. (What part of that stat relates to the multiple times Lindsay Lohan wrecked her SL65 AMG last year?)

As to having an oil-burning whore for a car, my old work truck got two more mpg, at 11 mpg. This truck was driven for more 350,000 miles. The average Veyron will get driven no more than 2,000 miles in its lifetime. At least a quarter will go to the uber-wealthy (even compared to this group) for huge car collections; think Jay Leno or the Prince of Dubai. These cars will never get driven more than the distance from the car-trailer to the front of the showroom. Others will wreck, with a presumable few being catastrophic, as 250 mph inevitably will do to the few who try it. The remainder will be sauntered out occasionally to show off at shows or in front of five-star hotels, but not driven with anything approaching a daily routine. In total gas usage, my one truck will have outperformed the entire production run of Veyrons. Total the sales of polish, Armor All, and cleaning rags, and it will probably be higher than the gas bills over the life of any individual car--and they are more "un-environmentally friendly" to produce than gasoline.

Safety with a car like this is a counter-intuitive issue. Sports cars are by definition more safe. They handle better, stop faster, give the driver more flexibility in decisions (on-ramp merging with a Saturn is usually one--you slow down), have less body roll in corners, and better traction in all but inclement conditions. The perception is created because your truck can't go 250 mph or 150 mph or most times even 100. The greater breaking ability doesn't look better when you see another sports car wreck, but he was going 150 when he hit the breaks. Had he been doing the same speed as you, he would have stopped sooner than you, which is why his crash is spectacular and yours is a popped hood and coffee on your lap, because you were checking you BlackBerry during rush-hour.

This car was designed for the thrill to push beyond what had ever been produced before. Every person who designs, builds, or has dreamed of doing any of those things always wants to know what is possible and where the limit is. To find that out is not cheap. The car might not be worth much more than the materials, and those not much more than yours, but car for car, the R&D is more than has ever been put into a Camry. And they are selling millions of them compared to 100 (104 now) units in this case. Somebody has to pay for it. From a corporate standpoint, this is even cheaper than the normal R&D. Most times you pay a standard rate for improving things like airbags, drive train, engine reliability and performance, breaks, etc. Here, they put that effort into the super-car, have the rich pay for it, and retain and apply the lessons learned down the line for other vehicles; it's reclaiming an expense that would otherwise just be overhead, plus having a tremendous point of pride as well as the best PR possible. What car company (or even non-car) wouldn't want that?

The last is basic economics. If people don't have that kind of money and don't think it's worth it, nobody will by it. A lot of what the wealthy buy is stupid and excessive. The only thing you have in common with them is the reason anyone does what we do to succeed in life. It increases our chances as well as the options available to get laid (more and hotter chicks, if a multi-millionaire can find hotter chicks than he can currently).

In this, they will succeed much better than us because of this car.

Deal with it.

At least all the cars bought will be paid for with available funds; nobody gives loans out for stuff like this, unlike sub-prime mortgages. Which monetary issue do you think will ultimately have more consequences for all of us?

COLLINS EZEBUIHE

By "forking over $1 million" instead of using it to support under-served kids, you might be silencing the next great thinker.

brummimatt

I am currently writing a paper based on the ethical justifications of consumerism. Whether you look at Marx's, Palmer's, or any other analysis of human needs, you cannot justify the Bugatti Veyron as a human need; it is purely a desire. Yet without people's desires and the seeking of indulging them with such products as the Veyron, where would design and indeed culture be? Desires and the quenching of them inspires and dictates innovation and invention. Without desire and conspicuous consumption, we would be in a stagnant, Marxist state. Don't deny the fact that advanced countries have heightened needs because so many of our basic ones are met. So I think we should all go out and blow our cash on a Veyron. It's justified now after all. I want one.

Rsatina

With that amount of money, I'd rather have four BMWs, a chateau in France, and extra money to drive and tour all of Europe.

Bob

Well, regardless of the debate, I've seen one of these on the road a couple of months ago near my home, close to Geneva, Switzerland. My 6-year-old daughter, looking from behind the car, described the back wheels as looking "just like a tractor." That's a lot of cash to buy a tractor.

D

Since the question is subjective, it's neither right nor wrong--some of you speak as if there is only one answer. There is no argument being presented. The reason I mention all of this is because in the first line, the author uses the term "argument" incorrectly. If you are getting a $1,000,000 car, then you expect $1,000,000 worth of satisfaction; that figure doesn't change despite being careless with money. I feel that money on this scale can be used in a more worthy way. People are suffering daily, and you want to use your money for (an extravagant and beautiful) foreign car? Some commented about how the rich can be frivolous with their money. Why not be more careful and use it for the improvement of someone else's welfare when their need is so much greater than yours?

Aaron Martin-Colby

The Veyron isn't fast enough to constitute more than $1 million for me. I've never even seen a Veyron, but I feel decently confident that I'd be unimpressed even if I did.

I love exotic cars, but there are a few where the penis tax is just too high. This is, without doubt, one of them.

I'd take a Porsche.

Darth Vadar

Personally, I feel, think, and know that the Bugatti Veyron is a superb, masterful, and extraordinary automobile.

Fortunately, we live in a world where it is possible to make choices based on our respective decisions. I've read the comments of 41 individuals. Within this group there are 28 of considerable intellect and 13 who can best be described as mentally challenged bordering on being moronically stupid and lacking in good judgment. Besides being insidiously jealous.

Why any brainless nitwit would criticize people in a position to spend their money as they so well please, is beyond reasonable logic to comprehend. The 13 who obviously have had a lobotomy should be overlooked due to being certifiable idiotic nincompoops who make comments awash with buffoonery.

Do yourselves a favor and try reading how-to/idiot books, and leave the more informative reading to those who can digest it from an appreciative standpoint. In other words, get a life that's noncritical.

andy

Anyone in America should be able to drive whatever car they want.

G

These cars are at the top of their game and speed like that isn't cheap. If you can afford one, I would buy one. They are top of the line sports cars and they will be at the top for a long time. If you roll in one of these, you will turn more heads than a Porsche.

pm

I'm poor, but I have loved cars since I left kindergarten. I saw the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport by pure coincidence on a bumpy Chicago street along LSD and felt really bad for the car but what a delight I will never forget.

Is this really a car? I mean…what I saw was the most refined and beautifully crafted piece of jewelry on wheels with a huge engine that can leave any Jet 200 yards behind at take off.

So far no carmaker has successfully build a 1,000-hp machine that can be driven by Mr. Nobody at low speed up to 253 Mph in a breath and stick to the asphalt without taking off.

This car is simply the combination of unmatched engineering performances and the most exclusive designer's dream. Will anything ever be built and compete with this masterpiece? The Concorde is the plane, and Bugatti created the driving machine of a life time.

Join the Debate

 

Participate More!

Please send us your ideas for new Debate Room topics. If you're an academic, association officer, or other industry expert and would like to write a Debate Room essay, send us a query. Questions? See the

BW Mall - Sponsored Links

Buy a link now!