Press Sighting: Forbes.com
June 13, 2010
Hat tip to Hannah Elliott and her crew from Forbes.com for stopping by the GDC global-mega-HQ and chatting to us about the crazy world of exotic car rentals.Â From the article:Â "Clubs like Gotham Dream Cars...carefully inhabit a margin between exclusive and attainable. They've got to cater their Lamborghinis, Aston Martins, Maseratis, and Bentleys to those wealthy enough to drop $4,000 for a weekend of driving, but who can't afford or don't want to buy the car outright."Â Full story below.
Exotic Car Clubs Thriving In Touchy Times
Hannah Elliott, 06.07.10, 04:00 PM EDT
Membership numbers are better than ever in the dream-car world.
Sebastian Habr knows what it's like to be misjudged. At one point last fall, the accounting manager for Gotham Dream Cars was fielding multiple calls a week from thwarted bargain-hunters, outraged that the struggling economy didn't translate into a discounted Ferrari 430.
"It's the CNN effect," Habr says. "People casually watch the headlines, and the instant assumption is that your business is going down, your business is gone."
Quite the contrary. Sales of Gotham's Dream Car Tours--a $900 package that lets thrill-seekers drive six exotic machines in a day--have increased 30% since this time last year, and its rental business has held virtually steady since 2008's slide. The six-year-old New Jersey-based club brought in $3 million last year, and expects to generate slightly more in 2010. Memberships to the club, which cost as much as $50,000, have declined slightly, says Gotham President Noah Lehmann-Haupt, but rentals and participation in Dream Car touring events are on the rise.
Some car clubs are geared to the social aspect of motoring, while others are based around a rental model, allowing shared use of the club's vehicles. Membership fees allow them to purchase cars wholesale or from dealers, and to cover ongoing maintenance costs: Gotham Dream Cars spends about 10% of revenues maintaining its notoriously finicky exotics, which rarely go more than 3,000 miles before they need servicing.
Clubs like Gotham Dream Cars carefully inhabit a margin between exclusive and attainable. They've got to cater their Lamborghinis, Aston Martins, Maseratis, and Bentleys to those wealthy enough to drop $4,000 for a weekend of driving, but who can't afford or don't want to buy the car outright. They've also got to maintain the clubs' ultra-exotic image, which means they think twice before introducing vehicles from more well-known car companies--Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz--into the fleet.
But recently, Lehmann-Haupt says, the president of Gotham Dream Cars, some repeat customers have been inclined to save money by taking out a Mercedes S550 ($2,442 for the week) rather than a Bentley Continental GTC ($7,440 per week). And he has added some upscale sedans and Porsche coupes because he had so many requests for them. Still, there's no Audi R8 in the fleet--despite its race-track credentials and prohibitive price point.
Lehmann-Haupt doesn't often buy special editions like the Corvette Z06 or the Bentley Continental Supersports, either. They're just not worth the premium. "Real drivers who want the Ferrari Scuderia rather than the Ferrari 430, that's like 5% to 10% of our customers," he says. "The reality is that the majority of our customers care about one thing and one thing only, and that is the logo on the hood."