You know the score with buying the latest must-have high-performance car. You either need to be a blood relative of the company CEO or be prepared to allow the dealer’s sales director to drink your wine collection and hang your art in his smallest room. Oh, and if his kid is looking for a prom date, he can take one of your offspring – and you’ll have to pick up the bill for the chopper so they can arrive in style, too. Then and only then will he instruct the receptionist to allow you beyond the coffee machine and the copies of Vogue to sit outside his office, feeling like a fifth-former who has been spotted challenging the geography teacher to a round of Jägerbombs.
Even if you make it this far, chances are you’ll be told you still can’t have the car you’ve saved for, lusted over and promised yourself because, despite all the hoops you’ve jumped through, you aren’t deemed a special customer. Not that anyone knows what the criteria is to become a special customer these days, but it’s probably easier to become a Freemason than it is to become someone considered worthy enough to buy the same new car as a YouTube vlogger. They will, of course, sell you a used example at a premium…
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And how much harder must it be to acquire an example of one of the most expensive, most powerful and fastest production cars currently on sale? There must surely be a surgeon on hand to remove the required limbs simply to gain access to the showroom…
Not quite. You do have to ring a doorbell at Bugatti’s Mayfair showroom, but all it takes is a quick press and a moment or two before the receptionist opens the door and welcomes you in. No appointment, no pre-arranged qualifying interview. No organs left at the door or offspring offered to the staff. Simply ring the bell and be welcomed into the surreal world where £2million-plus hypercars are sold. And don’t fret that you’ll be in the way, for the Bruton Street showroom welcomes as many as 500 walk-ins every month.
‘It’s a cliché, but we don’t need to “sell” a Bugatti,’ says Anita Krizsan, Bugatti brand director in the UK. ‘When a customer walks in, they have already bought the car in their mind. They have come to us to help them make it a reality.’ With 500 Chirons set to be built and the list price starting at £2.1million plus taxes, you’d expect there to be a bit of sales job to do, but seemingly not.
‘Fifty per cent of the customers we’ve taken orders for in Europe are new customers to Bugatti,’ Krizsan continues. ‘When the Veyron was launched, they weren’t in the market for that kind of car, for various reasons. Now they can have a Chiron and, while they’re waiting for their car to be built and delivered, they will buy a used Veyron.’ As you do.
Then there are the customers, six of them so far, who have ordered a Chiron to a relatively ‘standard’ specification that allows for quick delivery and have then returned to spend rather longer on the configurator to order a car more closely aligned to their desired spec. And not forgetting the customer who took delivery of a Chiron on a Friday and ordered another first thing Monday morning.
So what’s the process to ordering a Chiron? What goes through the mind of a typical customer? And what happens when you let a car hack go through the steps?
‘It’s very different for every customer,’ explains Krizsan. ‘Some will take an hour to choose their specification and it will be very personal to them; others will take six months and the whole family will be involved.’ It took me all of 30 minutes, but then I’m a simple man lacking in imagination.
‘Some customers like to have their car very similar or as close as possible to the specification the car was launched in. Others will want bespoke colours and trim throughout, which we can do, though any unique materials requested have to go to the factory to be tested just like any other part fitted to the car. If you want us to paint the car in a colour that’s unique to you, we can, but it will add to the build time while the factory finds a suitable supplier and it passes all of our quality control tests.’
I suspect that most of you will have played with the configurator on Bugatti’s website, scrolling through the colours on offer. If you’re a customer sitting on one of the leather chairs in the showroom, you get to do the same, but on a configurator offering much greater detail and one that you’ll have access to from anywhere in the world once you’ve started the order process.
‘Many customers have a clear idea of how they would like their Chiron to look,’ says Art Katallozi, brand co-ordinator at Bugatti in London, ‘and I’m here to show them their ideas on the configurator and help them realise their goals.
‘Sometimes a customer may be in two minds about a body colour, or which contrasting colour goes with their main colour. Or should it be two-tone at all?’ Apparently, 95 per cent of Veyrons were finished with two-tone paint, but a similar proportion of Chirons are being finished in a single colour.
‘Or it could be a wheel finish, interior colour for the seats or the carpets, or maybe the stitching in the steering wheel they are undecided on,’ continues Katallozi. ‘We are able to show them every opportunity. Sometimes a customer will revert back to their original specification; others will leave having ordered a Chiron in a specification they had never considered, and perhaps never would.’
Once you’re in the ordering process, which does involve the grubby subject of money – unavoidable even at this level, it would seem – there are factory visits for every customer (and their family) and, of course, the test drive. Well, you’d want to experience a 1479bhp car before you took delivery, wouldn’t you? As you’d imagine, it’s no ordinary demo, with factory test driver Loris Biocchi or one of his colleagues, perhaps Le Mans winner Andy Wallace, demonstrating exactly what such power feels like before handing over to the customer.
Then you wait. If you ordered today, you could expect delivery around this time in 2019, with a Chiron currently taking six to nine months to build, depending on the spec. And then all that’s left to decide is whether to have your latest hypercar delivered to your home for a very private handover, or whether you’d prefer to press the showroom’s doorbell once more.