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Currently a number of emerging sportscar manufacturers out there aim to establish themselves in the business of what they think are high-margin sportscars. The common (mis)perception seems to be that some mysterious potential customers are willing to pay a premium for something which does not have heritage, credibility or even newness. They would even accept a product which is not as sophisticated or refined as the established brands.

The paper napkin calculations of the budding entrepreneurs show that they can build a fast car for far less money than the competitors with decades of experience. Unfortunately they keep on forgetting what it actually costs to develop a vehicle and how much actually is involved in getting vehicles on the road and accepted by the market.

Since companies with racing departments, such as McLaren and Ferrari, are not able to create a proper race car for the road, the new player will (without any racing experience) bring just that to the market. Also it will not be merely a sportscar, but without a doubt at least a supercar or even a hypercar.

Minerva copied from Spyker the trick of using an old name which had some success a long time ago and now costs nothing to claim because everyone forgot about. Unfortunately for them it does not immediately give them the credibility of basing their vehicles on a proven racing heritage.

Ridiculous performance claims are good for creating some fuss, but so far it never resulted in anything else than doubts about the viability of the products. Good current examples are the Belgian Minerva J.M. Brabazon with 1200hp, the Trion Nemisis with 2000hp and the Keating Bolt with 2500hp from a turbocharged GM 7.0 V8. While it is not impossible to achieve these power ratings, it is not yet possible to get them reliable and usable.

Customers who grew up in the 80's have some nostalgic feelings for more analog vehicles. That is, until they drive one. The return to simplicity ≠ the return to simple. Simple is not acceptable anymore. A car without ABS, ESP or advanced drivetrain (including traction control) only shows that its creator did not have the budget or ability for developing these systems. Vehicles without these systems, but with big power outputs are simply dangerous.

Almost without exception, they use the same GM LS3 'small block' V8. This engine was introduced in 2008 in the Chevrolet Corvette, but has since even been used a pickup truck. Current examples of these 'analog' European supercars are the German/British Sin R1, the Dutch Savage Rivale Roadyacht GTS and Vencer Sarthe and the British Arash AF8. While it is a very decent engine, it is hard to call it sophisticated. Same goes for the default Oerlikon Graziano or Tremec gearboxes.

The Corvette offers usually better performance and refinement for a fraction of the price of the newcomers. The Corvette is not know for its refinement, but it does offer good value-for-money. The finishing touch is simply not there with the newbie products after a development cycle which would embarrass the prototype workshop employees of OEMs. It is not possible to skip the multiple iterations required to reach decent quality level, which takes time and money.

Only with an experienced team with properly set up environment can achieve high quality at the first attempt. This type of cars are too complex to do alone or with a handful of people. While it is frequently stated that the infamous McLaren F1 development team only had a dozen members, they did have access to a full Formula 1 development environment including its brains and hands.

The easy to develop and manufacture tubular steel structures with carbon fibre body panels can hardly be considered to be new, innovative and advanced. It all depends on what your point of reference is. If you are new to the industry, possibly. If it is the mainstream Lamborghini Huracan with its aluminium/carbon hybrid base structure, it is not. If it is a car with a carbon tub, like the similarly priced but infinitely more advanced (though over-styled) McLaren 650, it certainly is not. If it is a full carbon/titanium/unobtanium construction like a Koenigsegg, dream on…

While certain customers are willing to pay a premium for exclusivity or other bragging rights, they will feel screwed if something costing 25% less beats their vehicle in just about every aspect which defines the breed. When they realise that their vehicle does indeed not live up to their expectations and they consequently want to sell it, they almost always will find out that the value of their investment has plummeted. A mistake certainly a wealthy person only makes once. ¤

This post first appeared on my now defunct website www.autoweekly.info on 2014-10-24

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