Selling the Porsche 918 with leather, driver coaching and other special wishes
Last week, Porsche released the greatest car ever made by God or Stuttgart, the 918 Spyder, into the wild. The Spyder produces nearly 900 hp, 286 of them from electric motors paired to the finest V-8 engine on earth. It maxes out at a mild 217 mph and is the only production car with factory-fitted tires to ever run the Northern Loop of the Nurburgring in less than seven minutes. Also, it gets 67 miles to the gallon, a number that even the world hypermiling champion, driving a Prius C around a grocery-store parking lot, couldn’t achieve. The car has universally and rightly been proclaimed as a miracle of engineering, and maybe the savior of an entire industry.
Also, it is a convertible. You’d think it wouldn’t be too hard to sell.
But it costs $865,000. And they're building 918 of them, unlike the more exclusive LaFerrari (499) and McLaren P1 (375). You can’t exactly slap a zero-percent financing sticker on it and put up TV ads for a 4th of July sale. Getting the Spyder in the hands of people who both can afford it and appreciate its majesty has been a multi-year process. Porsche has done everything it can, short of performing the Dance Of The Seven Veils, to seduce its potential buyers.
Every one of those 918 will be pressed to order and for those who signed up early, the wait is over. “Ralph Lauren got his car,” someone from Porsche told me. “Penske got his car. Seinfeld got his car.”
But there are still plenty available. In order to move their stock of The Greatest Car Ever Told, Porsche has been sending invitations out to people in its VIP program, potential customers who are either already high-end Porsche owners or owners of other supercars. This program is called “Porsche Exclusive,” though it used to be called “Special Wishes.” The name got changed, for obvious reasons. If wishes were Porsches, rich people would ride.
These are the kinds of customers who travel to Germany to consult on specs, or go to a dedicated Porsche design office in Beverly Hills. If they pay, they get whatever they want. One buyer is waiting until car number 666 rolls off the bespoke production line. I’m hoping its Ozzy Osbourne, though no names were revealed. (The top exhaust pipes would make terrific devil horns).
Of late, exclusive customers have been getting access to track days at five locations around the country, which includes a walkaround of a pre-production Spyder, plugged into a wall unit like an ordinary Chevy Volt, some light catering, a couple of runs around the track in a quotidian 911 Turbo, and, finally, a few laps in the Spyder itself. The appointments are spaced out 45 minutes apart, to give the illusion of exclusivity. Everyone is allowed to bring one guest.