When the car is the gravy train

People in different parts of the world will pay varying amounts for the same product. But sometimes the differences can be astounding.


This was a piece of news that seemed designed to shake one out of a stupor. The Bugatti Veyron is now officially available in India through a distributor and the car is to be priced at 164-million rupees. Consider for a moment that while most of us are well aware that you can buy between 110 to 120 rupees to the Omani Rial, this still amounts to a whole sack full of moolah. At latest count that amounts to almost US$3.7-million and by the time you paid the local taxes and insurance and registration, you wouldn’t have much change left over from a whole 4-million. For that amount are you still buying a car? Or is it just the statement – that you have more money than you know what to do with, you don’t have to answer to anyone, not the board members, not the tax authorities and certainly not to your conscience, which is already planning exotic 407 km/h drives on roads where the norm is 47 km/h. How long will it take for the coin to drop – like the elusive 0 dropping out of the car’s top speed?

I can’t yet figure out whether the news is positive or negative. Yes India is one of the four alphabets of the BRIC countries and we all look forward to having our share of dollar millionaires and billionaires cropping up on the lists of the rich and famous. But are we forgetting for a moment that India has more than its fair share of malnourished, poverty-stricken people? With what heart would the buyer of the Veyron drive past a roadside beggar and not give into his pleadings? And not much of the 4-million will actually trickle down, since most of the money will go to the manufacturer in Europe. So if you think people buying Veyrons is good, perhaps you are a genuine capitalist at heart.

Let us put aside the whole concept that we need to be charitable to our fellow man. We can do that after we buy everything we love, all the brands we covet and the badges of luxury that set us apart from the less well to do. But where does our appetite for conspicuous consumption stop? A few years ago – it was Mercedes-Benz which beat the crystal ball gazers in entering the nascent Indian market. The highlight was an E-class, though now that has grown to be a Maybach. All the lux badges are there in the growing ‘I ‘economy just as they are in the B,R & C. And any brand that isn’t present in the emerging markets is likely to go downhill.

So we can’t really blame the sellers for wanting to sell these over the top cars.

Brands as diverse as Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce and Bentley are producing models or extending model platforms in order to cater to the nouveau-riche of the emerging economies. For the more established luxury product markets like the oil-rich Middle East, this isn’t anything new. Gold-plated cars share space with bathroom fittings treated with the same brush.

However, is it just a case of sour grapes? How many of us will ever put together one million dollars in our lifetimes? And why begrudge the super-rich their whims and fallacies? Perhaps we all indulge in this in some way or the other – by rushing out to buy the latest mobile phone, latest computer or by being brand conscious. In the meantime let us congratulate those mortals who can splurge millions on cars, ships, airplanes and palatial mansions. Maybe in some way it will eventually benefit everyone.


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