What the rebooted DeLorean can learn from Singer, Pagani, and Bitcoin.

The DeLorean Motor Car Company (DMMC) recently issued a statement regarding their intent to resurrect production of the infamous DMC-12 “gullwing” car following the passing of a bit of legislative pork into the December 2015 federal highway bill (H.R. 22) known as the “Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act” (H.R. 2675). Rumour has it that they’re aiming to start rolling cars off the line next year.i

This development has many “enthusiasts” – if mostly of the sort that drive finicky sports cars in the summer, take the bus in the winter, and are too young to remember how crap the anemic 130hp Peugeot-Renault-Volvo V6-powered, Made-In-Ireland OG clunker wasii – all hot and bothered, even though the estimated sticker price of USD$ 100`000 will be well outside their hot-pocket-and-budweiser budgets for the foreseeable future. I’m less jazzed, but am still quite interested to see if the white rabbit can be pulled out of the hat, so to speak. After all, the DMC-12’s stainless steeliii sheetmetal design and characteristic eagleseque doors are not without their marketability, but even with this new legal loophole and the leftover inventory that DMCC purchased from the original DeLorean (DMC) company,iv it’s very hard to imagine that there’s nearly enough momentum to turn this seemingly “cool” idea into something profitable. Being a car manufacturer, after all, is incredibly challenging and expensive, almost insurmountably so for a non-bezzle-backed start-up in the current regulatory environment, particularly at anything less than 3`000 units per yearv and without a parent company with deep pockets and a deeper parts bin, porkhole or no porkhole. Even selling 10k+ units per year doesn’t buy much these days, as the never-made-a-red-cent Tesla aptly demonstrates.

So here’s what DeLorean needs to do :

- Limit production to 500 250 150 50 units per year. Not only does this give you an important budgetary constraint for your development cycle, an area where costs can quickly spiral up from “obscene” to “infinity and beyond” and bankrupt you before you ever deliver a customer unit, it also creates a market environment where scarcity is publicly known, limited, and readily verifiable. It’s no accident that this is one of the key properties backing Bitcoin’s value as well.

- Price the car at no less than $250k. Even if you only half-ways engineer the handling to keep up with the obscene power delivery (more on which in a second), scaring your customers to within an inch of their lives is actually to everyone’s benefit. Not only would you be the only entry-level supercar maker to take this tack, what with all the four-wheel-drive, German-engineered pussmobilesvi otherwise choking this niche segment, but buyers of quarter-million-dollar automobiles ~want the thrill~. They’re men (almost exclusively) who’re looking for external recognition of their financial accomplishments (from strangers just as much as friends and family) and the more badass, dangerous, cavalier, and devil-may-care they look – signal that’s defined as much by a sexy exterior design as by skin in the gamevii – the better. Furthermore, with the classic gullwing doors still intact, you’ll still have something that shows ever bit as well in front of the night club. Ask anyone : a Lambo shows up with presence, an Aston Martin idem. Why ? Because they cost as much as a white-collar professional with 10 years under their belt takes home in 12 months. Before tax. There are “programmers” who make $100k a year ; it’s not enough. Lastly, $100k barely buys you a plasticfantastic Boxster S these days, which sell by the tens of thousands a year and shares parts with other models also selling by the tens of thousands.viii A hundred large might seem eye-watering for a brokeback gawker journo, but it’s nowhere near enough for a small-run production firm.ix Follow the Singer/Pagani/Bitcoin modelx  : price the thing 3-4x more than is “reasonable”, use the extra funds to build something a little a lot more special, and watch as your order books fill up faster than you can say “Marty McFly is the flyest.”

- Source the VR38DETT engine from the R35 Nissan GT-R. Not only is it available as a crate engine,xi but at 500hp+, it’s also powerful enough to erase even the deepest scars of inadequacy left by the old 2.8L power source. Sure, it’s $20-30k just for the motor, but nothing less will truly be q.s.xii because nothing less will effectively lend the soaring-through-the-clouds sensation that the rebooted DMC-12 needs to cash the spaceage cheques written by the far-out sheetmetal, and more would just be too “Hellcat” (read: smoky) to be sufficiently deadly.

- Also retrofit existing customer cars. This is essentially what Singer does : take a Porsche 964 donor vehicle from a customer, add 4`000 man-hours, a healthy smattering of bespoke parts, and some masterful tuning, then release the results back into the wild. Mind you, Singer only produces a dozen or so cars a year, so the amount of attention given to DMCC’s 50/year will need to be scaled back accordingly. This strategy of retrofitting the pride and joy of existing DMC-12 owners will mostly pay dividends when DMCC runs out of its 300 old “new” cars but still wants to keep the lights on and the dream alive. In the mean time, while primarily satisfying non-donor customers, they can refine their processes and ensure the highest level of service.

That’s it. If DMMC fails to follow not just any but all of these requirements, you can expect them to flounder like an eagle without air, which not only means no flight, but also a pretty gruesome death.

And not even the profitable kind.

___ ___ ___

  1. For what is a non-PGP-signed statement but a rumour ? []
  2. These folks are to the motoring industry what Redditards are to Bitcoin : lots of tawk of “community” etc. and not a lot of money where their mouths are. []
  3. The DMC-12’s unique exterior panel material has the added benefit of being reusable for making pressed CDs should the world go “full Mad Max.” []
  4. DMCC claims that they have enough parts for 300 “new” cars. []
  5. ie. approx. what Lambo, Ferrari, McLaren, Rolls Royce, and Aston Martin each deliver annually. []
  6. Which is to say, outrageously “competent” cars that cover ground like the dickens but fail to kill nearly enough of their owners. []
  7. After all, it’s not only the gods who hate cheap signalling (ie. Pascal’s wager). There could be no better marketing than if a one, two, maybe even half-a-dozen owners (or even better, journos!) went backwards off a track into the Armco in one of these things and died. This’d lend a hell of a lot more cachet to these would-be-supercars than the milder and more commonplace “accidents” like yet another Ferrari engine fire, and is a hell of a lot more cost-effective than another “biggest ever social media campaign” scam. []
  8. Porsche sold 189k vehicles in 2014 and 225k in 2015. But before you yell “Porscheflation!“, that’s simply the volume necessary for to produce $100k cars and survive, whether you like it or not. []
  9. “Oh Pete, but what about the Morgan Motor Company ? They only ship 400 – 600 units a year and they’re just fine !” Well, yes and no. The 3-wheeler is stunning and all, don’t get me wrong, but Morgan is also a TBTF firm – as demonstrated by the UK gov’s recent £6 million “grant” to them – and is therefore not a fragile little start-up company in the way that DMCC is. []
  10. For the miserably unaware, Singer Vehicle Design sells gussied-up air-cooled 911s for $700k+++. Don’t misunderstand nor underestimate the value of this strategy, for this is the only way to survive in a global market without being i) TBTF, or ii) having a massive parent company – be it BMW for RR, VW for Bentley, or the USG for Tesla – to split dev costs with.

    This makes what Singer does, and perhaps only Pagani besides, exactly, and I do mean exactly the strategic approach taken by every successful Bitcoin business to date. More expensive, more exclusive, and more deadly : it’s the future. []

  11. Which, say, McLaren’s 3.8L twin-turbo M838T V8 engine isn’t, but the VR38DETT is also both compact enough to fit the DMC-12 rear-engine bay (perhaps with some shimming, ianae) and has proven to be plenty reliable enough. []
  12. Quantum satis, the amount needed. []

4 thoughts on “What the rebooted DeLorean can learn from Singer, Pagani, and Bitcoin.

  1. […] aim to protect pedestrians from having their limbs amputated below the knee by a Lancia Stratos or DeLorean. There’ve already been too many, we’re told, and each of them was preventable, whatever […]

  2. […] : the distributed universe of The Republic. Maaaaybe it stretches to also work at the scale of Pagani or Singer, but it’s in no way an option for the likes of a behemoth like Ford. Ford is TBTF, which […]

  3. […] Much of this can be attributed to the broader impacts of the Information Age and the resulting availability of auction and sales pricing data, but the winner-take-all effects inherent in our highly interconnected and interdependent era are also driving this flight to quality. The net result is an increased emphasis on provenance to combat increasingly advanced “frankenwatch” techniques like laser welding that can return tattered examples into like-new examples with only the seller the wiser,ii at least until the marketplace matures and comes to appreciate restored and even improved wrist watches the way the car industry already does. […]

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