Stories > Here are the four very different types of supercar owners
Here are the four very different types of supercar owners

Here are the four very different types of supercar owners

Published 2021-01-14 by Peter Ternström

At a recent supercar launch in the middle east, I had an extremely interesting discussion with a marketing manager of an Italian supercar brand.

We talked about the four very different types of supercar customers, and their preferences in cars.

Believe it or not, there is an almost infinite amount of intelligence gathered by the big automotive groups. Knowing their customers is a key element. Turns out, there are four basic types of supercar customers, and each important brand has specialised in attracting their particular type. There is a reason why you prefer Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren or Porsche.

But first. What is the definition of a supercar?

A common misconception is that a supercar is defined by top speed or acceleration figures. This is wrong. The definition of a supercar is: a high-performance two-seater sports car design, that costs more than 200 000 euros.

This is the reason why a Lamborghini Huracan is considered a supercar and an Audi R8, which is an almost identical car under the shell, is not.

This is also the reason why Porsche GT2/GT3 and the Porsche Turbo is considered supercars, whereas all other 911’s are in the sports car segment, together with Porsche Boxster / Cayman, Corvette and actually also Mazda Miata MX-5.

Hypercars start at about 650 000 euros. The extremely advanced Ferrari SF90 Spider most probably belongs to the hypercar class, together with Porsche 918 Spyder, McLaren P1 and all the Pagani and Koenigsegg cars.

Oh, and let’s not forget the top of the food chain, that belongs to Bugatti. Bugatti demonstrates its top position by releasing cars like the Bugatti Divo with a price tag of 5 million euros. Whatever Pagani and Koenigsegg present, there will always be much a more expensive Bugatti.

The Bugatti Divo is probably not worth the double of a Chiron. The outrageous price is there solely to keep arm's length from Koenigsegg or Pagani. At this level, the price becomes an important part of the product. Just like the most expensive Rolex, Patek Philippe or Richard Mille watches.

The Bugatti customer wants the car to be the most expensive in the world, and he will pay for it. Also, keep in mind that the median Bugatti client has 40 supercars in his garage, together with numerous yachts and Gulfstream private jets.

A car for 5 million euros gives him bragging rights in his elite circle of friends. The cars are owned. Very seldom actually used.

What about the Lamborghini Urus?

An Urus certainly costs more than 200 000 euros. However, it is not considered a supercar. It belongs to the high-performance SUV segment. It is a crazy fast car though, and Lamborghini’s claim that they have invented a brand new segment called SSUV (or supersport utility vehicle) is not far fetched.

Sharing of tech between the brands is now at a ridiculous level. A Rolls Royce Cullinan borrows a lot of tech from the BMW X7, including the engine. Bentley Bentayga is based on the Audi Q8. Lamborghini Urus is also based on the Audi Q8 platform, but the engine is rumoured to be a highly tuned unit from Porsche. The engine in the Urus is amazing, by the way.

The engineers at the large auto corporations do not design cars anymore. They design platforms that can be used for different types of cars. When the platform is ready, brand managers step in. The brand managers use the platform and adapt it for its particular brand's needs: Trim levels of interiors, design details, engines and so on. From the same platform as the Q8 comes the Bentley Bentayga, and from the BMW X7 comes the Rolls Royce Cullinan.

This way, the big auto companies can elegantly stretch their product offering across many levels of luxury and most importantly - price. The margin on a Bentley Bentayga is much higher than the corresponding Audi. Still, the cars share the vast majority of technology, development and production cost. It is beautiful and brought to you by the brilliant German engineers of Bavaria and Baden-Württenberg.

According to a market study, the customer will almost always purchase the maximum car he can afford. By stretching the platforms brand and model range as high as possible, they can catch the customer at the most costly price point he can afford, maximising profit.

Now you understand more about the car industry than 90 per cent of your friends. Let’s continue with the supercars.

There are four (and a half) important Supercar manufacturers in the world.

The four important supercar brands are Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren and Porsche. The extra half consists of Mercedes-AMG. We will return to AMG in a moment.

What about Lotus, Morgan and Nissan GT-R? Well, they all represent their own niches. The Italian brands do not see them as competitors in their segment.

Furthermore, Nissan GT-R is the diametrical opposite to the Italian spirit, being technology-centred. A robot. In stark contrast to Italian supercars being emotion centered.

Aston Martin’s V8 models are luxury grand tourers, and populate the same class as the Maserati GranTurismo. They do not have the outrageous characteristics, performance or price to belong in the supercar segment.

Aston Martin’s V12 models are difficult to categorise but are certainly an alternative to a front-engined Ferrari V12 grand tourer, such as the F12 or the GTC4 Lusso.

When Aston Martin’s transition to mid-engine cars will begin, probably in 2022 with the start of the production of the Valhalla, things will look very different.

Aston Martin is undergoing a technology evolution, with both new in-house developed engines and mid-engine designs being introduced soon. Until then, the customers will have Aston Martin cars with engines in the front sourced from Mercedes-AMG. This is not necessarily a bad thing, the AMG engines are phenomenal.

Mercedes-AMG is an interesting case. The recently introduced two door Mercedes-AMG GTS sports car models are a direct attack on the extremely lucrative Porsche 911 segment. A vast majority of the customers purchasing a Mercedes-AMG GTS/GTR are former Porsche 911 owners.

Very few Ferrari or Lamborghini owners decide to switch to the new AMG two-seater. But hey, that is not a problem, since there is an order of magnitude more Porsche 911 owners than Ferrari or Lamborghini cars owners.

The introduction of the GTR Black Series moves Mercedes-AMG deep in to supercar territory. Hence, the half.

The characteristics of the supercar owner

There is an incredible amount of market research and studies being done by each of the four supercar manufacturers. Their job is to know their customers well and to deliver what they want. Understanding the motivation behind the decision of making a purchase is crucial.

It is here it becomes really interesting. You see, there are four very different types of supercar customers, and each brand has adapted its products and value proposition to attract its particular target group.

Let’s start with Ferrari. You might want to sit down now.

Ferrari customer

An important motivation for many Ferrari customers is to belong. To belong to a very exclusive group of people in the world that own a Ferrari car. Ownership of a Ferrari gives access to a very valuable network of people and exclusive events.

This is why Ferrari Clubs around the world have such high numbers of members. Nearly all Ferrari owners immediately join the local Ferrari owner’s club and start driving their car to meetings and events. The network of successful people Ferrari ownership provides is quite incredible. See it as a Rotary club on steroids where everyone loves their red car.

The Ferrari key is both for the car and the network. A Ferrari owner loves to mingle in the right group and will dress impeccably to the occasion.

This is also the reason why Ferrari merchandise is so popular. A Ferrari owner will make damn sure that the world recognises his ownership, even though he has not the car with him at the moment. Polos, hats, luggage kits, jackets and shoes. The little prancing horse logo on as many garments as possible. This can sometimes go to ridiculous levels, where owners dress in all red wherever they go. This behaviour is more pronounced in first-time owners. It eases up over time.

Does this mean that the car is not important at all? Absolutely not. The latest Ferrari car must represent peak technology and performance in its segment when it is released. Leading the pack in all important measurable metrics. This is why Ferrari has been quite annoyed with McLaren.

McLaren has released car after car with insane engine power, and Ferrari has had no choice but to follow. There is a reason why the F8 has 720 horsepower. That reason is the McLaren 720S.

Formula one is also worth mentioning. This makes the owner feel like a part of a winning team. Ferrari cars winning races confirms the owner’s choice of car. When Ferrari is less successful on the track, the owner will simply stop following Formula one.

Ferrari owners have insane brand loyalty. They will seldom abandon the brand and move to a Lamborghini or Porsche. Once they are in the club, they do not want to lose their membership and access to Ferrari owners' network.

Lamborghini customer

Now over to something completely different. (Read it with John Cleese’s voice).

Nothing could be as far from Ferrari as the other important Italian supercar brand - Lamborghini. Their customers are a completely different story than Ferrari’s.

A quite important motivation for a Lamborghini customer, even if they will never admit it, is attention. You read it correctly. Attention. And, no other supercar brand can deliver attention more than Lamborghini.

There is a reason the naturally aspirated engine is a part of the Lamborghini DNA. It is because of the high pitch loud sound, announcing the Lamborghini owner’s arrival many kilometres before he comes in sight.

There is also a reason why Lamborghini offers its cars in so many outrageous colours. Green, orange, purple - you name it. The cars must be seen and immediately identified as a Lamborghini.

A Lamborghini is the car you want to arrive in. To the restaurant, the golf club or the night club in Saint-Tropez. The Lamborghini Aventador, with its doors opening upward, is the heavyweight champion, Olympic level, of arriving in style and stealing everyone's attention.

Does this mean that the car's performance is weak? Absolutely not. Both Lamborghini Aventador and the Huracan are great fun to drive. However, the Lamborghini Huracan does not participate in the ridiculous engine power struggle between McLaren and Ferrari.

Maurizio Reggiani, head of product development at Lamborghini, has actively opted out from increasing power output - too much. According to him, high engine power does not automatically mean a more fun car to drive. Instead, it is usability and driving excitement that comes first.

Many say that the Lamborghini Huracan is a more fun car to drive compared to the more powerful Ferrari F8 or McLaren 720S.

McLaren customer

McLaren customers are a different breed altogether, and the factory in Surrey, England, knows this very well.

A McLaren customer is incredibly interested in the technical details of the car. Things like power output, exact dimensions and weight, which materials are used for different components and most importantly performance figures. How fast is the car from 0-200 km/h? How quickly can the car stop from 100 km/h?

The cars from McLaren are technological marvels. Everything must be absolutely the latest and wildest technology used. This is why the monocoque is from carbon fibre in all cars. This is also why the brochure and all marketing material are incredibly detailed in all aspects of the cars.

The McLaren customer is not really interested in how exciting the car is to drive. Instead, he will compare the car with the Ferrari or Lamborghini from a strict performance aspect. If the McLaren is the fastest from 0-200 km/h, then it surely must be the better car. This drives sales for the brand.

The ideology with constant technical innovation and supremacy has produced some truly amazing cars. Especially, theoretically, on paper. One common criticism that McLaren has had to endure is that many drivers find the cars not very exciting to drive. In the search for technical excellence on all levels, driving excitement has been sacrificed.

Another product of McLaren’s ideology is the rate of new models being introduced on the market. As soon as an engineer in Surrey comes up with a new and better solution, the factory immediately creates a new model around it. This has led to many fantastic new cars, but the rate of new models introduced seriously hurts the second-hand market with the value of existing cars dropping quickly.

The dramatic speed of innovation has led to many McLaren cars being unsold at dealerships in the world because a new and improved model already has arrived.

If you can accept to own a new McLaren that is not the latest model, then there is always great deals to be made at the dealership level.

Porsche customer

Now for the last type of supercar owner. A type of customer that differs greatly from Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren.

Let’s start with the Porsche GT3 and GT2. The customers of these two models are very interested in driving the car on the track. To drive a car on the track, the cars must be able to be driven hard by the driver. Something that both cars do brilliantly. No other track-oriented cars in the world can take abuse and punishment like these two.

Also, the cars can be ordered in RS trim, which provides factory-fitted roll cages, bucket seats and six-point harnesses. Just add a helmet and you are good to go on a race track safely. Lap after lap, the entire day, without any problems.

The difference between a GT3 and a GT2 customer is the size of the wallet. Many motor journalists and driving professionals find the GT3 to be the more fun car to drive. However, the GT2 is more powerful and a bit of a status symbol while it is much more expensive. Many GT3 owners would absolutely switch to a GT2 if they could afford it.

The Porsche Turbo attracts another type of customer. This car is a performance alternative to a Mercedes S Class or a BMW 7 series, that absolutely can be driven all year round in all conditions. Four-wheel drive in the snow with two skis on the roof to St Moritz? No problem.

An important thing that sets the Porsche drivers apart from the Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren owners is the relative disregard for many kilometres on the clock.

While the Ferrari owner usually is seriously afraid of depreciation due to usage, the Porsche owners mostly don’t care. A Porsche is built like a tank and can be properly used all the time. This is a great aspect of supercar ownership that is unique to Porsche as a brand.

Finally

There you go. An inside view of the supercar industry and the different characteristics of the prospective customers.

Quite interesting, isn’t it?

When magazines and TV shows test supercars, they measure the wrong things. They always end up comparing performance figures, because it is the easy way to do it. The fastest lap time around a racetrack usually wins.

Isn't it strange that the fastest car around the track, or the car with the fastest acceleration, is not the most popular?

This is because supercars are seldom sold on performance figures alone. Instead, the decision is very much about the emotions the brand communicates:

1. "Be a member of the most exclusive club in the world"

2. "You are a rockstar"

3. "Own the most advanced car on the planet"

4 "You are a racing driver, let's go to the track!"

Which one are you?

Peter Ternström
peter@granturismo.org
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