The supercar nightmare - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old 09-02-2006, 07:07 PM Thread Starter
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The supercar nightmare

They cost a lot to begin with – but what if you bump your dream machine? It’s going to hurt, says Andrew Frankel of The Sunday Times

Prang the front bumper of your Ford Focus and it might take a few quiet nights in front of the TV to offset the £250-plus repair cost. But as you curse your momentary lapse of concentration, be very glad you weren’t driving a Lamborghini Murciélago.
You might lust after the head-turning lines of this Italian mean machine, but sully its pristine bumper and you may suddenly learn to appreciate your humble Ford.

The Murciélago’s front bumper is made of carbon fibre, and before a single minute of labour has been added a replacement will set you back £8,206 — about the cost of a nearly new Focus.

Being able to afford a bona-fide supercar, or even a top-end luxury car, is a lot more challenging than simply writing that first cheque. In the past two years a glut of used cars has pushed down second-hand prices to rock bottom levels. The car you dreamt of as a youngster has suddenly come within your financial grasp. But beware. If you want supercar ownership to be a thrill rather than a constant headache, you need to take a close look at your bank balance and consider the true cost of the car of your dreams.

Clip the wing mirror of a Maserati Quattroporte in the supermarket car park, for example, and you’ll be signing a cheque for £561.93 plus labour. For a Mercedes- McLaren SLR you’d be looking at a bill for twice that (if you include fitting) — more than £900 for the part alone. By contrast, if you’d kept the Focus you could probably pay the £55.45 bill for a new wing mirror, plus the labour charge, jet off for two weeks in the sun and still return with change from £1,000.

The cost of replacing a broken headlamp unit on an SLR is even more eye-wateringly expensive — £2,869.28 for a single unit.

A punctured rear tyre on a Rolls-Royce Phantom costs £724 to replace, before labour. For a complete exhaust (including catalytic converters) you’ll be looking at a bill of £2,004.56 for an Aston Martin DB9 to £7,916.91 for a Ferrari 612 Scaglietti — that compares with £443.93 for a Focus.

Then there is the matter of simply putting fuel in the tank. With fuel economy of more than 40mpg (over 60mpg for the diesel), a Focus driver may put £50 of petrol in the tank every 500 miles. The 12-cylinder 5.7 litre engine of a Scaglietti (13.6mpg) or the 6.7 litre V8 powering a Bentley Arnage T (14.5mpg) will guzzle more than three times as much.

Not surprising, really. A top speed of 199mph (in the case of the Ferrari) and a 0-62mph time of a little over 4sec are going to eat a lot of petrol.

Fuel costs aside, what is it that makes supercars quite so expensive to maintain? After all, isn’t one windscreen or electrical component much like another? Surely a wing mirror is a wing mirror? Even Ferraris don’t come gold-plated.

True, advanced technology and complex materials used in high-performance cars can push up the cost of replacement parts, but a large proportion of the added expense is the result of simple economies of scale.

When Ford orders Focus windscreens from its suppliers, it does so by the million. By contrast Mercedes has yet to fit a single replacement exhaust system to one of its SLRs — which is why when it finally does the unlucky owner will be looking at a bill for £3,000 to make it worth manufacturing.

The same goes for the Maybach. None of these super-limos has ever needed a new £1,955.96 headlamp or a £1,144.79 windscreen, despite the cars having been on sale for more than three years.

There’s one exception: tyres will certainly need replacing and on a heavy high-performance car they’re likely to last as little as a quarter as long as those fitted to a typical family runabout. You could completely re-tyre an average Focus for less than £350, but you won’t find supercar tyres at your local Kwik-Fit. They are bespoke items designed for that specific model and that model alone, which is why a tyre for a Phantom costs approximately 10 times more than one for a Focus.

So should we feel sorry for supercar owners? Certainly not. Expenses that would bankrupt mere mortals are unlikely even to graze the bank balance of the buyers of these type of cars.

Unless, of course, the buyer is you, stretching to afford that desirable motor which in truth is beyond your means.

Even those with serious money tend to use their favourite cars as playthings, not as runabouts. If you know the owner of a Bentley Arnage or an Italian exotic such as a Ferrari or Maserati, it’s a pound to a penny the car will sit in the garage with an everyday working car such as a Mercedes S-class limousine (okay, it’s an everyday car to the superwealthy) and at least two other motors for day to day use. Few people ever got rich without knowing the value of money, and just as you’ll wince at the 50 quid cost of replacing the wing mirror on your Focus, so too will the Murciélago driver presented with a bill for £880.42 (before labour) for the same misfortune.

Of course the ideal situation to find yourself in is that of the motoring journalist. I love driving these cars but I do it with the assurance that ultimately it’s not me who’s going to have to foot the bill for repairs. Whether I would actually want to own one is an entirely different matter. It’s not a decision I’m likely to have to make any time soon.

"If spending money you don't have is the height of stupidity, borrowing money to give it away is the height of insanity." -- anon
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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 09-02-2006, 07:25 PM
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Boy, I'm glad I own a Focus.

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