A Car That Costs as Much as a House Is the Latest ‘Dream’ of America’s Upper Middle Class
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A Car That Costs as Much as a House Is the Latest ‘Dream’ of America’s Upper Middle Class

By Jim Motavalli
Tue, May 14, 2024 8:59amGrey Clock 5 min

When Lamborghini announced its end-of-an-era Huracán Super Trofeo Jota last April, in an edition of just 10, it sold out immediately. No price was announced, though it was probably above US$400,000. That hardly deterred buyers eager to own one of the last Huracán supercars.

Lamborghini Huracán

Ferrari’s limited-edition 812 Competizione and 812 Competizione A in 2021? The 999 hardtops (US$598,567) and 599 targas (US$694,549) were gone very quickly, though maybe not in 60 seconds.

Meanwhile, the Rolls-Royce Black Badge Cullinan “Blue Shadow Private Collection” cars that appeared in 2023, just 62 in number, disappeared within two weeks. Black Badge Series II Cullinans start at US$470,000 for 2025, but these special editions are pricier—more than US$600,000.

“The primary driver for Rolls-Royce Cullinan clients is not price, but a combination of lifestyle and personalised exclusivity,” says Martin Fritsches, president and CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars North America.

Rolls-Royce Cullinan

The global supercar market was US$17.5 billion in 2023, reports MarketResearch.biz, but it could soar to US$24.9 billion by 2033. Supercars, Business Research Insights says, “are a symbol of luxury, performance and status, appealing to affluent buyers who seek exclusivity and the thrill of driving a high-powered machine. … With a growing global economy and increasing wealth, the demand for supercars continues to rise.”

In the U.S., the American International Automobile Dealers Association reported that luxury brand deliveries in 2023 were more than 2.6 million, accounting for 17% of U.S. light-vehicle sales. That was up from 2.2 million sales in 2021 (and a 14.7% share).

Supercar sales represent small totals, but big potential profits. It’s a niche with an increasing number of startups, including battery cars from companies such as Lucid and Rimac. Ferrari, for instance, reported a US$1.36 billion profit in 2023, a yearly record. That’s despite producing only 13,221 units in the year. Ferrari has typically produced between 8,000 and 11,000 cars annually, but it’s one of the world’s most written-about, admired, and sought-after brands.

And Lamborghini had its best year in 2023, with an operating profit of US$777 million. That’s on sales of 10,100 globally. But each sale was a big ticket: The Huracán buyer in 2023 paid between US$212,090 and US$340,690. Volume didn’t help Tesla all that much. The company sold 1.8 million vehicles globally in 2023 (and had the world’s best-selling car in the Model Y), but has been experiencing declining profits.

This year, the supercar and luxury carmakers are revelling in the power of special editions and the one-of-one “bespoke” commission. Without having to make major changes to their existing models, the companies are able to greatly increase the price—via distinctive colours, interior appointments, and personalisation. Perhaps Tesla would do better if it too delved deeper into accommodating its eager customers with vast personalisation possibilities. Who wouldn’t want a one-of-10 SpaceX Edition of the Model Y?

Meanwhile, established supercar makers are rapidly transitioning to electric and hybrid drive, motivated by international regulations that will ban internal-combustion engines by 2035. Maserati, for instance, is introducing electric “Folgore” versions of its GranCabrio convertible this year, and MC20 supercar in 2025. There will be a new electric SUV in 2027 and a four-door battery Quattroporte in 2028. Electrification is not likely to lead to either lower prices or lower demand, but there’s no certainty.

The Collector Market Is Cruising, Too

The market for collector vehicles above US$200,000 also remains quite healthy. The US$143 million paid for the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe in 2022 surpassed the results of any other car sold at auction by more than US$90 million.

This 1955 Mercedes-Benz coupe broke records when it sold for $142m in 2022

Critics who said that high-dollar buyers would never buy US$200,000-plus cars online (without seeing them in person) have been proven dramatically wrong, and the increase in online buying on sites like Bring a Trailer (BaT) and Cars & Bids has stoked rising values.

“March 2024 was the largest-volume month in our Premium Listings category since we launched it in 2019,” says Randy Nonnenberg, president and co-founder of BaT. “April 2024 followed on with 64 vehicles selling at over US$200,000 in value, with the top sale a Bugatti Chiron at US$3.075 million.”

Offerings in that price range from a US$250,000 1932 Ford hot rod coupe and a Lexus LFA to modern Ferraris and Ford GTs, Nonnenberg says. “The low transaction fees of our online platform make it very attractive for buyers of these expensive items when compared to other venues.”

Pre-owned supercars (and adjacent American muscle) often appreciate in the marketplace, with the rare (and most powerful) ones commanding huge prices.

“The strong US$3.5 million paid at our Amelia Island auction in March 2024 for a Porsche 918 Spyder Weissach—as well as many other strong prices for contemporary supercars—demonstrates the strength in this segment,” says David Gooding , president of the Gooding and Company international auction house. Seven cars priced at more than US$10 million were offered at auction last year, reports Hagerty, with as many as 10 expected in 2024.

McKeel Hagerty , CEO and chairman at Hagerty, says the US$200,000 price point is an interesting one in the enthusiast car market.

“With a budget like that, you can buy some fantastic classics with a rich history, late-model supercars, or you can build a wide variety of the latest restomods [older cars restored with modern amenities],” Hagerty says. “These are the dream cars of the American upper-middle class.”

Hagerty says that US$200,000 would buy “a great, early Porsche 911 S or Jaguar Series 1 E-Type Roadster.” A supercar car lover might also find a Lamborghini Huracán or Ferrari 458 with “weapons-grade performance” in the price range, or a Plymouth Superbird and ‘66 Mustang GT350, he adds.

A rare 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder Weissach supercar

Despite the demand, Brian Rabold, vice president at Hagerty Automotive Intelligence, says that high-priced cars don’t necessarily appreciate as fast as some others when they age.

“In the past five years, the 87 vehicle generations in the Hagerty Price Guide with an average value between US$200,000 and US$500,000 have seen an average value growth of 9.24%. This lags behind the 35% average value growth seen in the remaining 1,351 vehicle generations,” Rabold says.

Nevertheless, he says the future “looks bright” for the US$200,000 to US$500,000 segment. “These vehicles are becoming more popular among collectors. Surprisingly, Baby Boomers (who hold most of the wealth in the country) are not driving this growth.” Hagerty is seeing more queries from Gen-X.

“Owning a desirable car or truck that you can drive, or show is much more fun than storing your stock certificates in a safe,” says Craig Jackson , chairman and CEO of the Barrett-Jackson auction house. “Plus, it can offer a long-term upside if you research before you buy.”



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Should AI Have Access to Your Medical Records? What if It Can Save Many Lives?

We asked readers: Is it worth giving up some potential privacy if the public benefit could be great? Here’s what they said.

By DEMETRIA GALLEGOS
Tue, May 28, 2024 4 min

We’re constantly told that one of the potentially biggest benefits of artificial intelligence is in the area of health. By collecting large amounts of data, AI can create all sorts of drugs for diseases that have been resistant to treatment.

But the price of that could be that we have to share more of our medical information. After all, researchers can’t collect large amounts of data if people aren’t willing to part with that data.

We wanted to see where our readers stand on the balance of privacy versus public-health gains as part of our series on ethical dilemmas created by the advent of AI.

Here are the questions we posed…

AI may be able to discover new medical treatments if it can scan large volumes of health records. Should our personal health records be made available for this purpose, if it has the potential to improve or save millions of lives? How would we guard privacy in that case?

…and some of the answers we received. undefined

Rely on nonpartisan overseers

While my own recent experience with a data breach highlights the importance of robust data security, I recognise the potential for AI to revolutionise healthcare. To ensure privacy, I would be more comfortable if an independent, nonpartisan body—overseen by medical professionals, data-security experts, and citizen representatives—managed a secure database.

Anonymity cuts both ways

Yes. Simply sanitise the health records of any identifying information, which is quite doable. Although there is an argument to be made that AI may discover something that an individual needs or wants to know.

Executive-level oversight

I think we can make AI scanning of health records available with strict privacy controls. Create an AI-CEO position at medical facilities with extreme vetting of that individual before hiring them.

Well worth it

This actually sounds like a very GOOD use of AI. There are several methods for anonymising data which would allow for studies over massive cross-sections of the population without compromising individuals’ privacy. The AI would just be doing the same things meta-studies do now, only faster and maybe better.

Human touch

My concern is that the next generations of doctors will rely more heavily, maybe exclusively, on AI and lose the ability or even the desire to respect the art of medicine which demands one-on-one interaction with a patient for discussion and examination (already a dying skill).

Postmortem

People should be able to sign over rights to their complete “anonymised” health record upon death just as they can sign over rights to their organs. Waiting for death for such access does temporarily slow down the pace of such research, but ultimately will make the research better. Data sets will be more complete, too. Before signing over such rights, however, a person would have to be fully informed on how their relatives’ privacy may also be affected.

Pay me or make it free for all

As long as this is open-source and free, they can use my records. I have a problem with people using my data to make a profit without compensation.

Privacy above all

As a free society, we value freedoms and privacy, often over greater utilitarian benefits that could come. AI does not get any greater right to infringe on that liberty than anything else does.

Opt-in only

You should be able to opt in and choose a plan that protects your privacy.

Privacy doesn’t exist anyway

If it is decided to extend human lives indefinitely, then by all means, scan all health records. As for privacy, there is no such thing. All databases, once established, will eventually, if not immediately, be accessed or hacked by both the good and bad guys.

The data’s already out there

I think it should be made available. We already sign our rights for information over to large insurance companies. Making health records in the aggregate available for helping AI spot potential ways to improve medical care makes sense to me.

Overarching benefit

Of course they should be made available. Privacy is no serious concern when the benefits are so huge for so many.

Compensation for breakthroughs

We should be given the choice to release our records and compensated if our particular genome creates a pathway to treatment and medications.

Too risky

I like the idea of improving healthcare by accessing health records. However, as great as that potential is, the risks outweigh it. Access to the information would not be controlled. Too many would see personal opportunity in it for personal gain.

Nothing personal

The personal info should never be available to anyone who is not specifically authorised by the patient to have it. Medical information can be used to deny people employment or licenses!

No guarantee, but go ahead

This should be allowed on an anonymous basis, without question. But how to provide that anonymity?

Anonymously isolating the information is probably easy, but that information probably contains enough information to identify you if someone had access to the data and was strongly motivated. So the answer lies in restricting access to the raw data to trusted individuals.

Take my records, please

As a person with multiple medical conditions taking 28 medications a day, I highly endorse the use of my records. It is an area where I have found AI particularly valuable. With no medical educational background, I find it very helpful when AI describes in layman’s terms both my conditions and medications. In one instance, while interpreting a CT scan, AI noted a growth on my kidney that looked suspiciously like cancer and had not been disclosed to me by any of the four doctors examining the chart.

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