“We want to build the cars that end up on posters on children’s walls. We want them to dream of owning our cars, because even if they don’t end up in a position where they can buy one, it’s that dream that gives a brand desirability and authenticity.”
Those paraphrased words have been uttered to me by many a supercar manufacturer over the years, and it explains why the likes of Aston Martin, Bugatti, Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren go to such lengths to have their cars photographed in exotic locations, and do deals to have their cars on the cover of computer game packaging or launch ranges of baby clothing or teddy bears emblazoned with their logos.
Sure, often it’s about making money there and then – that’s the beauty of running such powerful brands – but there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that all of these deals are also focused on the long-term benefits of capturing hearts and minds.
Having a young, car-loving son of my own, I’ve had a few glimpses into how this works. He’s always been obsessed by the Bugatti Veyron, by the simple idea of it being the fastest road car ever built. That sort of thing captures young minds like nothing else, it seems, and consequently he has a model Veyron, a Veyron poster and watches a lot of Veyron videos.
But in the past 18 months I’ve tried to gently push him the way of McLaren, because I reckoned the (British) firm’s engineering and science-led approach are better qualities for him to aspire to.
He gets that the McLaren P1 wasn’t fastest in a straight line, but that it would blow the Veyron away around the track. The idea of driving in electric mode also struck a chord, which is a generational switch I think we’ll all come to appreciate. And then, a video showing the moveable rear wing in action was a knockout winner. Job done. Just so long as I didn’t mention LaFerrari or the Porsche 918 Spyder…
Then, like a bolt from the blue, Ferrari and Shell played a blinder and out-manoeuvred me. All I needed to do was buy Shell fuel and in return I’d get free Lego Ferrari toys. And, yes, the posters proclaiming this were big enough for a six-year-old to read, thank you.
Six packs of Lego later – an F1 car, an F1 support truck, an F40, a Berlinetta 250 GT, a 458 Italia and an FXX – and he was hooked. McLaren, for now, is history as far as my boy’s concerned. Ferrari has history: fast cars, racing cars and Lego cars. That’s as good as it gets.
Now, I must make it clear that I’ve nothing against Ferrari; the qualities and capabilities of its cars do more than enough to prove to me that the engineering talent in Maranello is quite capable of fighting it out with the best from Woking. It’s just that, to my mind, Ferrari is a bit more shouty and a bit more show-off than McLaren. I get why people want that from a supercar – but it’s not necessarily a quality I want my boy to buy into just yet.