At Frankfurt Motor Show, the Future Toys of the Very Rich

At every auto show, a certain number of impossibly exotic vehicles are introduced. The brands that manufacture these pieces of the unattainable don’t usually make a point of discussing how only ultra-high-net-worth individuals can afford their creations, and nobody seems particularly surprised or perturbed if these playthings of the very rich wind up in the garages of oil barons, drug lords, Far Eastern nouveau capitalists or various Third World despots.

The 2011 Frankfurt auto show is no exception. In fact, it may be an extreme example of how popular and profitable these vehicles remain, even in austere economic times. More than a dozen such toys were among the crop of new models introduced here.

Bugatti makes but one car, yet it continues to amuse itself by dressing its lone offering in extreme outfits, like chihuahuas decked out for a Vogue shoot. Here, Bugatti is showing the Veyron L’Or Blanc, named after the French for white gold, which is adorned in porcelain and painted to resemble hard Christmas candy. The car had its debut last month during the Pebble Beach Concours d’Élégance. If you could buy this one — and you can’t, it’s sold — it would cost about $2.8 million.

Bentley, showing a convertible version of its bread-and-butter Continental GT, also is playing dressup. In celebration of Breeze, the $250,000 GTC’s new color, Bentley has commissioned a small number of costly matching leather goods and eye wear (prices available on request). This is in addition to existing bespoke items like matching Louis Vuitton luggage, a $20,000 option. Bentley also showcased a more luxurious cabin for its handcrafted Mulsanne sedan, which it called the Executive Interior Concept.

The $246,000 Rolls-Royce Ghost, based on the BMW 7 Series, was intended for the Rolls buyer who might actually want to drive and enjoy an executive sedan with a shortened wheelbase rather than be intimidated into a chauffeured existence by the marque’s bigger cars. The purpose, it would seem, was defeated by revealing a new extended-wheelbase version. The vehicle was stretched by 6.7 inches midships, supposedly in response to customer demand. Why not just buy a Phantom?

Is Aston Martin’s V-12 Vantage no longer exclusive enough for you? Did you not file your order in time for the limited $1.7 million One-77? Aston Martin rode to the rescue, showing its 510-horsepower V-12 Zagato here. The car is being produced in a run of 150 and is priced at the relative bargain of roughly $500,000.
Aston Martin V-12 Zagato.

A double-take was warranted Tuesday when mighty Mercedes-Benz focused its introductions on the high-end, high-horsepower 2012 SLS AMG Roadster. The company said it had no trouble selling as many of these $250,000 topless beauties as it could make.

Brabus, another Benz tuner, unveiled an 800-horsepower version of the CLS sedan here, called the Rocket 800. Pricing was set at an eyeball-searing $586,000, a notable markup from the stock sedan’s base price of $72,000.

BMW customizer Alpina is pushing the base price of a $90,000 BMW 6-Series convertible into a more exclusive neighborhood with its 507-horsepower, twin-turbo edition, dubbed the B6. The exact price is an unpublished number.

An exact price was not provided for the Lamborghini Sesto Elemento either. The production run for the car will be limited to 20 vehicles. Like its similarly rare predecessor, the $1.5 million Reventón, Lamborghini expects the Sesto Elemento, despite a likely sticker in excess of $2 million, to sell out in about 20 minutes.

Eterniti Motors, a British start-up, surveyed the field of luxury S.U.V.’s and declared the lot not luxurious enough to be chauffeur-driven. So it announced plans here to introduce its own re-imagined extreme luxury version of the Porsche Cayenne. Estimated price? Around $225,000 when it goes on sale early next year.

Speaking of pricey S.U.V.’s, Maserati introduced one of its own with the Kubang concept, which mechanically is little more than a Jeep Grand Cherokee or Dodge Durango. With the trident on the grille, however, the Kubang would not rub burly shoulders with a Durango on a Chrysler dealer lot.

Fisker, the electric car maker, wanted in on the luxury car parade here, too, unveiling its Surf, a wagon version of its Karma sedan. The price could top $100,000, according to the brand.

Lastly, we were going to include the new Lotus Exige S in this roundup, but we hesitated when we learned that the base price of this track-day special would fall under — shudder — $90,000. After careful consideration, we lowered the bar.