By on September 4, 2009

When Harry Zekelman died suddenly in 1986, his sons assumed control of their father’s Ontario-based steel tube company. In the course of two decades, Barry Zekelman and his brothers built Atlas Tube into the largest manufacturer of steel tubing in the world. In 2006, the Zekelman boys sold a majority stake in Atlas to the huge Carlyle Group, which then merged Atlas with its other steel company, John Maneely Company. Barry Zekelman became the CEO of the combined firm. In 2008, OAO Novolipetsk Steel, part of a Russian conglomerate, agreed to buy Maneely and the Zekelmans’ remaining interest in Atlas. In the financial turmoil of the past year, the deal fell through. Even without it, Zekelman’s not going to miss his next mortgage payment. He and his brothers made about $1.5 billion on the original agreement with Carlyle.

Though Barry Zekelman and his wife try to keep a low profile, some of their purchases were bound to show up in the news. Their vacation home in Paradise Valley set the record for private home sales in Arizona. The Zekelmans also have a Caribbean vacation home, where they keep Man of Steel, their 164-foot Heesen yacht (which replaced their previous 124-foot, $16.3 million boat). They moor their 50-foot twin-turbine-powered 200 mph catamaran speedboat, Outerlimits, at their home on the Ontario side of Lake St. Clair, across from Detroit.

Zekelman’s need for speed is not limited to the water. He’s owned Porsches, Benzes, Lamborghinis and Ferraris, including an Enzo.

Bottom line: Barry can afford a few toys. At the same time, he’s a well-known and generous philanthropist.

The Zekelmans have donated tens of millions of dollars to the Special Olympics and other charitable causes. Even in their philanthropy, they try to avoid the spotlight. A $10 million dollar donation to the Holocaust Memorial Center names not the Zekelman brothers, but rather their grandparents, who were murdered by the Nazis, and their parents, who were survivors.

Recently, the automotive world has been buzzing about a $6 million lawsuit filed by Zekelman against Bugatti for their failure to deliver a 2009 Veyron 16.4. On the face of it, the lawsuit seems pretty simple.

In September 2008, Zekelman went to Bugatti Troy, in suburban Detroit, to purchase a new Veyron. The Bug salesman offered to procure a 2008 model from another seller. But Zekelman wanted an ’09 model. Bugatti Troy agreed to sell him a 2009 Veyron, in Italian red, for $1,553,354.57.

Both Zekelman and the Bugatti salesman signed the appropriate Vehicle Purchase Agreement, Car Configuration Order Form (to specify interior trim, personalization and other options) and Buyer’s Acknowledgement of Special Conditions. Zekelman agreed to pay a $428K non-refundable deposit. The agreements stated that the deposit could only be refunded if the vehicle was not available. Zekelman wired the advance payment. Apparently construction on the car began.

In early December, Zekelman wired the remaining $1.1 million to Bugatti Troy. The salesman promised delivery by the end of March 2009. The moneys were transferred first to Bugatti USA and then to the parent company in Dorlisheim, France.

Once payment was made in full, though, the salesman emailed Zekelman. He notified his customer that the dealer could not deliver a 2009 model, and again offered Zekelman a 2008 model. Apparently the factory had decided to skip the 2009 model year. Zekelman requested a full refund per the terms of the signed contracts. In January, Bugatti Troy informed him that the refund process was “underway”.

When the refund was not paid by late January, Zekelman’s attorney, Steven Z. Cohen, contacted Bugatti Troy, whose lawyer responded by saying that the refund was forthcoming. Eight months later, the refund had still not been paid. Zekelman’s lawyer filed suit for a full refund, plus treble damages.

[Disclaimer: Mr. Cohen is a long time friend of mine and has represented me in a legal matter. I didn't know of his involvement when I started researching this article, but our previous relationship made it easier for me to pick up the phone and call him about his story.]

According to Cohen, Volkswagen, Bugatti’s parent company, simply refused to honor the signed contracts—other than the offer to substitute a 2008 model. When I said I was baffled by their refusal, since the language in the agreements is pretty clear, he agreed, saying it made no sense, particularly from a public relations standpoint.

To begin with, there are a limited number of people who can afford a million-dollar car. The folks who buy megabuck cars and attend the Pebble Beach and Meadow Brook concourses are a relatively small fraternity. Word gets around about treating customers shabbily. The high-end marques know their customers like to feel cosseted and attended to. That’s why all of them have bespoke personalization programs, of which Zekelman availed himself when custom ordering his Veyron.

[NB: Bugatti Troy is not a party to the lawsuit. When contacted about the lawsuit, Bugatti Troy had no comment.]

Why would VW/Bugatti risk such a black eye? Something Zekelman told me in an email provides some perspective. While he could not discuss the ongoing litigation, he did say the following.

I signed a contract for a 2009, they built the car for me, I have progress photos. Just after I paid the full amount, 3-5 days before shipping they told me it would be titled a 2008, which is when I said, “No way.” Why would I buy a 2008 at the end of 2008 when I ordered a 2009? The rest is self-explanatory. They have since sold the car and have now been paid in full twice! Nice guys.

So this appears to all be about paperwork, how the car would be titled. Bugatti didn’t want to title the car as a 2009 model.

The decision seems to involve other paper, the green kind. At first it appeared that VW didn’t want to refund the money because the car was already built. Since some have suggested that VW loses money on each Veyron sold, it’s understandable they would want the revenue. However, according to Zekelman, the car’s been sold to a different buyer.

So what’s VW’s incentive to dig in their heels, other than the interest earned on Zekelman’s $1.5 mil?

When the Veyron was announced, Bugatti said that they would be building 300 examples of the 1000 horsepower exoticar. According to a press release on the Bugatti website, Number 200 was delivered to a “Middle East customer” this past March. Bugatti has also indicated that the coupe is no longer in production; the remaining 100 or so Veyrons will be the substantially more expensive (by $500,000) open cockpit targa-styled Grand Sport model, apparently to be sold as model year 2010 and beyond. Production on the Grand Sport began in June, with 20 cars already produced at this time.

In addition, many of the final Veyrons in the initial production run of 200 were “special” editions, like the Hermes edition (MSRP $2.4 million) that was delivered to that customer in the Middle East. Bugatti/VW has figured out that $1.5 million just isn’t exclusive enough for some folks who are willing to pop for an additional 6 or 7 figures worth of cachet. When you pay for cachet, especially $900K worth, you don’t like others getting it for free.

It’s possible that there were regulatory reasons for skipping the 2009 model year. But as the ’08 and ’09 cars would have been identical, I doubt that emissions and crash certifications were needed. My guess: between order and delivery Bugatti decided to skip the ’09 MY and then simply wanted to avoid making a 2009 Veyron that would be the only one of its kind.

Sure, each of the Veyrons is effectively a custom car and could be described as one-of-a-kind. But to be one of one 2009 Veyrons would rocket it up the collectibility scale. Perhaps not as exclusive as James Glickenhaus’ one off P4/5 Ferrari, but definitely rarer than the ’08 and ’10 Veyrons.

Letting Zekelman in on such a bargain might upset those Bugatti customers who already paid substantial premiums to buy special editions or the Grand Sport.

When asked for comment, aware of Zekelman’s philanthropic causes and the potential for a PR disaster, Jill Bratina, head of corporate communications for VW of America, said the following.

The Volkswagen Group has the highest personal respect for Mr. Zekelman, but vigorously disagrees with the allegations he made in his lawsuit, and is defending itself against those allegations. It is the Volkswagen Group’s policy, however, not to discuss the substance of any pending litigation.

I’m sure that VW’s and the Zekelman’s respective histories are just a quirk of coincidence. But big companies sometimes accommodate less than noble agendas in the pursuit of profit. Malcolm Bricklin got into the car business with Subaru because Toyota and Nissan at the time adhered to the Arab boycott of companies that did business with Israel. I can’t help but wonder if Volkswagen may have been more eager to accommodate Mr. Zekelman if he was a customer in the Middle East (well, except for one country).

[UPDATE: The parts of this article discussing the potential for anti-Semitic PR have been removed.]

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61 Comments on “The Truth About Barry Zekelman’s Bugatti Veyron...”


  • avatar
    Commando

    Jeeez, already. Just give the guy back his money and everyone goes home satisfied.

    And I thought it was just GM that treated their customers like ^&%$.

    OFF TOPIC:
    This kind of reporting is the stuff that made C&D so great a long, LONG, time ago. I wondered where that type of automotive journalism went to. Glad to see it here at TTAC. (2 thumbs up).

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Well, the truth about Barry Zekelman’s Bugatti is that it was sold from under him to an Arab. Unpleasant connotation, anyone?

    However – and this is off the subject – the other truth about Zekelman’s Bugatti is that no matter how much the thing costs, or how fast it goes, it’s eye-searingly ugly. When I first saw pictures of this car, replete with two-tone paint, I was wondering when the gold wire wheels and curb feelers would be introduced.

    Maybe he’s better off spending the million and a half on a small fleet of less potent, but infinitely better-looking cars? Heck, half a mil buys you a Ferrari F430 and an Aston DBS, and that’s quite a start.

    I know that supercars today are so fast that they have to employ leading-edge aerodynamics to keep them from becoming airborne, which accounts for much of their awkward styling (for the record, I think the Ferrari Enzo is atrocious-looking too). But am I the only one who wishes today’s supercars looked as smashing as, say, the Ferrari Daytona?

  • avatar
    wsn

    The good news is that VW is very consistent in treating customers. You don’t get treated any worse just because you are not wealthy.

  • avatar
    jmo

    But, that doesn’t explain why they won’t just give the man back his money.

  • avatar
    wsn

    FreedMike :
    September 4th, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    for the record, I think the Ferrari Enzo is atrocious-looking too.

    ——————————————-

    Are you …. ?

    The Enzo is the most beautiful car ever built, followed closely by F40.

  • avatar
    wsn

    jmo :
    September 4th, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    But, that doesn’t explain why they won’t just give the man back his money.

    ——————————————

    At the rate they sell these cars, they don’t want to give up half a year’s worth of sales.

  • avatar
    jmo

    it’s eye-searingly ugly.

    First of all – no it’s not – the blue/black combo shown above is quite attractive.

    Second, it’s got a 1001 bhp W-16 – who cares what it looks like.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I don’t believe ethnicity or any history from 70 years ago has anything to do with the present case. I’m sure Mr. Zekelman isn’t the first Jew to purchase a Veyron, and there is no reason VW should care, as long as his money is green.

    I do believe VW simply fouled up, and should have just refunded the money – case closed.

    Mr. Zekelman: Maybe an R8 V-10 would suffice?

  • avatar

    Is the problem that VW won’t give him back the 1.5, or that he’s now insisting on a larger amount?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    wsn :
    September 4th, 2009 at 1:42 pm
    Are you …. ?

    The Enzo is the most beautiful car ever built, followed closely by F40.

    Not to question your tastes (hey, you questioned mine), but personally, I think the Enzo looks like something Miyazaki dreamed up during a bad acid trip.

    I just don’t go for the “race car for the street” look, unless it’s a Ford GT40. I’ll give you the F40, but put it up against the 308-based GTO, and tell me which one looks better.

    This, my friend, is why Baskin-Robbins makes 32 flavors… :)

  • avatar
    RetardedSparks

    I just can’t possibly imagine what VW thinks the paperwork says that allows them to take the money and not deliver a car?
    There has got to be a serious back story lurking here somewhere. I know the post goes out of its way to make Mr Zekelman sound like an angel, but (to grossly generalize) most people with that kind of cash are not.

  • avatar

    VW wants to keep his money, but won’t give him anything other than a 2008 for it.

    Someone mucked up in deciding/communicating that there would be no 2009s to the dealer.

    He doesn’t want a 2008, probably because it’s instantly two years old.

    There is no reason for them to not simply refund his money, unless he’s insisting on a larger amount now.

  • avatar
    Ken Elias

    There has to be something else going on here…it’s just too simple for VW to refund the money and be done with it (which they haven’t done so far apparently). Great story Ronnie btw…can’t wait for the movie!

  • avatar
    AndyR

    Thanks for the clear and concise breakdown of the situation, Ronnie.

    That said, I think it was a waste to spend valuable paragraph space drudging up a specious association with Nazi antisemitism.

  • avatar
    Bruce from DC

    Interesting legal case. The transaction is covered under the Uniform Commercial Code, and my guess is that VW’s lawyers are telling the company that the buyer’s measure of damages is the difference in value (if any) between a (new, untitled, I assume) 2008 model to his specifications and the 2009 model he ordered. That might not be so much money. OTOH, with the specification sheet, the construction status updates and the during-construction photos, the disappointed buyer is probably claiming that his car was “goods identified to the contract” under the UCC, in which case that car needs to be delivered, or the contract rescinded (full refund made). Of course, without knowledge of all of the fine print on the forms the buyer signed, this is little more than a guess. The moral of the story — sadly — is the if you’re doing a 7-figure deal, you have to have a lawyer involved from the beginning.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    This makes no sense…. I can understand Zekelman not wanting to get “last year’s model” and I can understand VW not wanting to have to do all the paperwork to a model year as 2009.

    The failure to refund the money to the customer however, suggests that there’s more to this story.
    There’s something going on here that we haven’t been told yet.

    I wonder what it is?

    $1.5 M is nothing to a company the size of VW so there’s more to the refusal to refund than we’re being told.

    The tactics being employed by Mr. Zekelman’s attorney make we wonder how strong their case might be…. it certainly makes me cringe.

    I’m sure that VW’s and the Zekelman’s respective histories are just a quirk of coincidence.

    Sure, but Zekelman’s attorney and press agents are going to drag it all up anyhow, and try to reframe the dispute with them aren’t they?

    VW and Bugatti don’t give a damn whether the customer is Jewish or an alien from Pluto.

    Dragging Nazi’s and the Holocaust into a dispute about money is something that Zekelman and Cohen should be more than a little ashamed about.

    Why would VW/Bugatti risk such a black eye?

    We’re going to try this case in the press, VW, and you don’t want to be messin’ with your luck by picking on the grandchildren of Holocaust surviors, do you, Nazis?

    How sad.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    It’s a great story, but I don’t buy into that jewish “oh, they are all out to get me” paranoia. To even believe that a company as big as Volkswagen has an anti-semitic agenda is ludicrous, especially with the history that Volkswagen has. It’s all about the money, I’d say.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Somehow, I think he want’s to force VW to sell him the worlds only 2009 Veyron. He will pay $1.5 million and it will instantly be worth $5 million.

    This might explain his success, as you can’t turn a small tube company into a vast empire, without being a consummate (sp?) deal maker.

  • avatar
    shabster

    Great story. Gotta agree with the previous posters that this is the kinda info that one doesn’t find elsewhere.

    Thanks.

  • avatar

    FWIW, the certification costs for a 2009 could be a couple hundred thousand. At least they would for a regular car. For a limited production model they’re likely lower.

    At this point it’s probably all about winning on both sides.

    I agree with others that, without some evidence to the contrary, the anti-semitism bit isn’t relevant and detracts from the rest of the piece.

    The attraction of having the only 2009 would have dawned on him late in the game, if ever. At first he probably simply didn’t want a 2008 seeing as it’s already 2009. Who pays MSRP for a year-old (now two-year-old) car, even a cheap one?

    If one of us signed up to buy a 2009 VW, then had the dealer say they could only provide a 2008, for the same money, we’d be ticked.

  • avatar
    spyspeed

    Was there a reason for this article other than to deal the anti-semitism card from the bottom of the deck?

  • avatar
    twotone

    I sure hope they did not crush the clunker I traded in for my 2009 Veyron.

  • avatar

    FreedMike: FWIW I completely agree. In fact in my opinion the last good-looking Ferrari was the Daytona, and really only the 275GTB/4 and a few other Ferraris look good (The LM, NART spyder, and a few of the 250s & SuperAmericas)

    Ferrari’s are generally overdone and overwrought. Goofy scoops and cheese graters. Poorly proportioned greenhouses. etc.

    The only good looking modern supercar is the Alfa Romeo 8C. The rest are hideous, including the Enzo and the Bugatti.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    Kman

    Okay, a good elucidation into this story.

    However, the multiple references to the “Arab” buyer, or the “Middle East” was gratuitous, bordering on bigotry. That they may have been Arab or Chinese or Russian or American is irrelevant, since (following the narrative of this story), it was the additional $900,000 paid that may have influenced VW (again, as alluded to by this story).

    So to keep emphasizing “Arab”, “Middle East” and — as Lokki and others mentioned — dragging the Holocaust and VW’s origins into it is indeed gratuitous.

    Then upon seeing that there has been an edit to the story to remove earlier references to the “anti-Semitism” canard, it confirmed it: this was a bigoted report.

    Just because it reads well and is about a subject we all love, doesn’t take away from the underlying innuendo: bigotry.

    I am disappointed.

  • avatar
    Kman

    Reminds me of that town-hall during the McCain presidential campaign.

    Woman in audience: “I’m scared of Obama, he’s an Arab”.

    McCain, taking the mic from her: “No, no ma’am, he’s not an Arab. He’s a good family man.”

    How the f** was that let slide in post-civil-rights America? We haven’t learned anything.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    “The good news is that VW is very consistent in treating customers. You don’t get treated any worse just because you are not wealthy.”

    U vill get the same treatment as a Spanish LaPuta. Screw u comin & goin.

    My vay or the Autobahn.

    Circa early 80′s an Audi Quattro was sold to a Lawyer in Vancouver BC. The salesman told him that would be light years ahead of a Porsche interms or power, handling, appearance and even has warmer for his dignified Derriere. As the Esquire was looking for a Ski-macht that tracks on the snow like on rail and promised to get to Whistler in a hurry.
    God forbid anything that gets into his way or tring to derail him.

    Lo & be hold, the car turned out to be another LeMon. To made it worse as the court document told was it has insulted his dignity.

    One time he went skiing, and the heated seat was turned on, but somehow the switch is jammed cannot be turned off, so the heat continue to build up, until it badly scorched his Derriere, he had to jumped out and sat on to his snow. To cool off his Polaroids. ( I suppose the current kind of welded the switch copper contact together, talking about under engineered. And probably no heat sensing fuse protection were in placed)

    The Audi Quattro was not exactly as advertised, as the statement of claim filed.
    Audi in the end was ruled no in favour, they paid dearly for the loss plus court costs and baad publicity.

    None the less the Quattro has took over the Off road racing by the storm.

    Sometimes paying them off is so much cheaper.
    We can blame it all on the German has no humour!

    Another lawyer friend told me, that he bought an Audi Avant ( station wagen aka Shooting Brake as the Old Blighty folks called them. ) The dealer claim that was a VW executive driven demo , untouched by other human hands.
    He was happily driving her. A few days later a salesman called
    him as how was the car running, also inadvertently disclosed about the body that had been to a minor contact.
    Upon hearing that he kept asking more questions, only to found out the damage was >2000. As it had to be disclosed to buyer regardless. Being a beyond reproach VW dealer the can be in very much of hot water.
    So VW dealer was infact withholding important info.

    They negotiated back & forth, in the end VW ponied up 5-6 thousands to this proud owner.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    “Somehow, I think he want’s to force VW to sell him the worlds only 2009 Veyron. He will pay $1.5 million and it will instantly be worth $5 million.”

    A German bloke told me it takes Vee Dub 5 mil to make one Elephant car, so their loss is 4 mill to put an Elephant ornament on the hood.

    To VW it really who cares if its 2009 or 2008. The fact is not going to change very much anyways.

    Or so simple sell him one for 2010 model.

    Can be all summarised in one word
    Intransigence.

  • avatar
    wsn

    jmo :
    September 4th, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Somehow, I think he want’s to force VW to sell him the worlds only 2009 Veyron. He will pay $1.5 million and it will instantly be worth $5 million.

    This might explain his success, as you can’t turn a small tube company into a vast empire, without being a consummate (sp?) deal maker.

    ——————————————

    1) What’s wrong with that? It’s on the contract. If VW doesn’t like it, don’t sign it.

    2) By the same token, VW didn’t become the world’s top 3 car maker without using thousands Jewish gold teeth.

  • avatar

    I hope Barry sues the scheisse out of VW and wins.

    After their crappy sanctimonious treatment of so many customers, it is truly nice to see someone with the time and resources take them to the mat.

    Go Barry Go!

  • avatar
    H Man

    I am truly and profoundly offended by this entry. Few things in life grate my soul to the bone like the bigoted, hateful act this “article” represents. The gall and inhumanity to post a picture of a pre-production Veyron!

    I demand an apology!

  • avatar

    As a writer, I’m touched. Some folks think I did well, and some think I’m cringeworthy. When you touch all the bases they call it a home run.

    Rather than do it piecemeal, I’ll respond in one post.

    Well, the truth about Barry Zekelman’s Bugatti is that it was sold from under him to an Arab. Unpleasant connotation, anyone?

    Where did my article say that? The 200th Veyron delivered to a “Middle East customer” was a Hermes edition that I pointed out costs $2.4 million, almost a million dollars more than the car Zekelman ordered. It was Bugatti who first identified that customer as being in the Middle East and my article was clear that he bought a different car than Zekelman’s. Bugatti did sell Zekelman’s car to someone else, but I have no idea if he was an Arab or a Jew or if his or her skin is green or blue.

    Either I write poorly or some folks need to read for comprehension, or both.

    I agree that the Bugatti is not an attractive car aesthetically. Mechanically it’s a wonder, but I’m still a bit confused on the whole W engine layout.

    I don’t believe ethnicity or any history from 70 years ago has anything to do with the present case. I’m sure Mr. Zekelman isn’t the first Jew to purchase a Veyron, and there is no reason VW should care, as long as his money is green.

    Why are you so “sure” that Zekelman isn’t the first Jew to purchase a Veyron? After all, Bugatti’s sold ~230 Veyrons, and Jews make up only 0.25% of the world’s population. Just remember, with all this talk of bigotry, you wouldn’t want to stereotype people, would you?

    I made it clear that the histories of the parties to this litigation were just a quirky circumstance. A coincidence that might be awkward for VW.

    Is the problem that VW won’t give him back the 1.5, or that he’s now insisting on a larger amount?

    The problem, based on my latest info, is that VW wants to keep back $75,000 as a “dealer commission”.

    There has got to be a serious back story lurking here somewhere. I know the post goes out of its way to make Mr Zekelman sound like an angel, but (to grossly generalize) most people with that kind of cash are not.

    Since I’m the one who wrote it, I’m pretty sure what I was trying to do. I was pissed off at folks who were calling a guy that gives away millions to charity a “douchebag” just because he’s rich and expects to get what he pays for. It says in the Torah to neither favor a rich man nor a poor man. Just because a guy is rich is no reason to assume that he’s a bad actor. Likewise, just because someone is poor is no reason to have unlimited compassion for them. For the record, most people, with or without cash, are not angels. Actually, I thought the article might have made him look a bit extravagant because of his expensive boats, homes and cars.

    That said, I think it was a waste to spend valuable paragraph space drudging up a specious association with Nazi antisemitism.

    Low hanging fruit. So I’m no tzadik. The reality is that the Holocaust is in the background of any interaction between Germans and Jews.

    The tactics being employed by Mr. Zekelman’s attorney make we wonder how strong their case might be…. it certainly makes me cringe.

    What tactics? I noticed on the court filings that the attorney was someone I knew, so I contacted him, not the other way around. His attorney made it clear to me that they weren’t interested in publicity. Yes, he made a Sgt. Schultz joke. So what? BFD. For the record, I made it clear that he was joking and not serious.

    “I’m sure that VW’s and the Zekelman’s respective histories are just a quirk of coincidence.”

    Sure, but Zekelman’s attorney and press agents are going to drag it all up anyhow, and try to reframe the dispute with them aren’t they?

    What press agents? Zekelman’s attorney didn’t raise the subject, I did. Mr. Cohen specifically told me that they weren’t interested in any publicity. I considered not writing anything for that reason but decided the news value was greater. Also, I want to grow my brand as a writer. Cohen and Zekelman have their interests, I have my own. The article was my own idea and Farago encouraged me to write it, knowing the angle I was taking.

    Dragging Nazi’s and the Holocaust into a dispute about money is something that Zekelman and Cohen should be more than a little ashamed about.

    Once again, they didn’t bring it up and Mr. Zekelman specifically told me, after he read the article, that he thinks the case has nothing to do with Nazis and Jews.

    If you’re going to blame anyone for bringing up the subject, blame me, not Zekelman or his attorney. I still think it’s a reasonable question to ask if VW might be concerned about the subject. The fact that VW’s rep was effusive in her personal praise for Mr. Zekelman shows to me that I wasn’t far from the mark.

    We’re going to try this case in the press, VW, and you don’t want to be messin’ with your luck by picking on the grandchildren of Holocaust surviors, do you, Nazis?

    Actually, he’s the grandchild of Holocaust victims, not survivors. I believe that his parents were survivors. If his grandparents were survivors, this would be less of an issue. If there were six million more survivors, it wouldn’t be an issue at all.

    Oh, did I just play some kind of card? I’ll have to ask my Smolinsky relatives, my grandfather’s entire family, their opinion. Wait, I can’t ask them. I wonder why that is?

    Nobody’s trying anything in the press. As far as I know, all Zekelman and his attorney did was file the case. The Windsor Star contacted the attorney for comment and so did I. The story has been reported somewhat inaccurately and since I had a connection to a source, I pursued it. I contacted all the parties to the case, Zekelman, VW, Zekelman’s attorney, and the dealer and hopefully was accurate in reporting their comments.

    If folks attribute my own views to Zekelman, his attorney or VW, either I did a bad job writing, or those folks are reading things into the piece that aren’t there.

    The attraction of having the only 2009 would have dawned on him late in the game, if ever. At first he probably simply didn’t want a 2008 seeing as it’s already 2009. Who pays MSRP for a year-old (now two-year-old) car, even a cheap one?

    I don’t think it occurred to him till he saw what I wrote. As Zekelman was quoted in the original post, he just didn’t want to buy an ’08 when it was already December, almost 2009. When he first approached the dealer in Sept. he declined an ’08.

    I think, as I pointed out in the post, that it’s more likely that VW/Bugatti doesn’t want to artificially increase the value of the car by titling it as the only 2009 and they don’t want to piss off other customers who have paid bigger bucks than Zekelman.

    Was there a reason for this article other than to deal the anti-semitism card from the bottom of the deck?

    A. It wasn’t the anti-semitism card. I’m loath to deflate the value of that currency. I was, however, the “it could be seen as a German company taking money from the child of Holocaust survivors which brings up all kinds of associations and that’s bad PR” card. As I said in the article I thought it was a coincidence. Companies and people give unintentional impressions all the time. You don’t believe me when I say what my motives are? Fine, man up and call me a liar.

    B. Nothing from the bottom of the deck. Everything was out in the open.

    However, the multiple references to the “Arab” buyer, or the “Middle East” was gratuitous, bordering on bigotry.

    Since you’re calling me a bigot, I don’t think it violates the site anti-flaming rules to call you a liar. I didn’t read RF’s original edit, and I’m relying on the original that I submitted, but I made no reference to an “”Arab” buyer.” If referring to the purchaser of the 200th Veyron as being from the Middle East is gratuitous and bordering on bigotry, take it up with Bugatti. They thought it was relevant enough to specifically mention it in their press release.

    I did indeed use the word Arab once, in reference to Malcolm Bricklin’s experience with the Arab boycott of Israel, a historical fact. What next? I’m a racist because I mentioned that two Japanese companies hewed to that boycott instead of using American examples of craven business practices?

    So to keep emphasizing “Arab”, “Middle East” and — as another poster mentioned — dragging the Holocaust and VW’s origins into it is indeed gratuitous.

    Not gratuitous, just low hanging fruit and an interesting hook for an article.

    You’re not the only one who can impute motives. Two can play that game.

    It’s interesting how so many posters here are jumping to the conclusion that Mr. Zekelman, a Jew, and Mr. Cohen his attorney, also a Jew, are acting inappropriately. Are those slams gratuitous too?

    Well, at least nobody called Cohen a “Jew lawyer”.

    Note to RF. Before they scream that I’m calling posters anti-semites, which I’m not, let me just point out that I’ve essentially been called a bigot and a shill and things have been falsely imputed to me out of arguably bad faith.

    If you prick me, do I not bleed?

    Then upon seeing that there has been an edit to the story to remove earlier references to the “anti-Semitism” canard, it confirmed it: this was a bigoted report.

    So now folks can read Farago’s mind as well as mine? How about my editor thought the 800 lb gorilla was taking attention away from the factual reporting in the story? Robert knew the angle I was taking in the article before I submitted it. My guess is that reflecting on how readers like you reacted he decided that less is more.

    Just because it reads well and is about a subject we all love, doesn’t take away from the underlying innuendo: bigotry.

    I’m not exactly a shrinking violet. If I wanted to say that Volkswagen is run by a bunch of goose stepping Nazoids, I’d say it. VW’s association with Hitler and the Third Reich is a matter of historical record, not innuendo.

    At least you said it reads well. Thanks for the compliment. I try to make my writing entertaining.

    BTW, if VW are such saints and all this is innuendo and bigotry on my part, why won’t Volkswagen acknowledge the role of Josef Ganz in the history of Volkswagen?

  • avatar

    2) By the same token, VW didn’t become the world’s top 3 car maker without using thousands Jewish gold teeth.

    Now that’s a canard.

    The postwar Volkswagen company was created by the British occupying forces. Yes, they retained existing employees and managers, but it was a completely different corporate entity. There was probably more of a difference between the prewar KDF VW company and the postwar VW than there is between “New GM” and “Old GM”.

    There’s no need to exaggerate the crimes of Germans from 1933-45. Reality was bad enough.

  • avatar

    How the f** was that let slide in post-civil-rights America? We haven’t learned anything.

    Since you brought up the subject of Pres. Obama, and you think we’re in “post-civil-rights America” how do you feel about his Green Jobs Czar, Van Jones, saying, “And the white polluters and the white environmentalists are essentially steering poison into the people-of-color communities, because they don’t have a racial justice frame.”?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Ronnie Schreiber :
    September 4th, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Where did my article say that? The 200th Veyron delivered to a “Middle East customer” was a Hermes edition that I pointed out costs $2.4 million, almost a million dollars more than the car Zekelman ordered.

    You’re right – I should have read that a little more carefully. My bad. Glad we’re in agreement about the Veyron, though.

    Moral of the story? Even billionaires get screwed over by car dealers and makers. Warms the cockles of my heart.

  • avatar

    I am truly and profoundly offended by this entry. Few things in life grate my soul to the bone like the bigoted, hateful act this “article” represents. The gall and inhumanity to post a picture of a pre-production Veyron!

    I demand an apology!

    Blame Bugatti, not Farago. He got the pic from Bugatti.

    Speaking of Bugatti, they have a password protected media section of their web site, but there’s no application form for journalists to request access. Also, no contact numbers either here or in France. I guess access is limited to the chosen few. Hell, even Lotus has a more accommodating media site.

  • avatar

    But when you write stuff like “I can’t help but wonder if Volkswagen may have been more eager to accommodate Mr. Zekelman if he was a customer in the Middle East (well, except for one country)”, you’re implying that an anti-Jewish attitude has something to do with this.

    No, I’m not implying anything. I think I was pretty straightforward. I was talking about my own reaction which is a natural reaction.

    The fact that Bugatti themselves publicized a sale to a customer in the Middle East shows that they have a particular interest in that market.

    I never said they sold the car to an Arab. Perhaps they sold it to some Jew named Goldberg who lives in Tel Aviv. Israel is in the Middle East, isn’t it?

    I’m not thrilled when blacks reflexively play the race card, but I understand the historical background why they do. Likewise, Jews are a bit sensitive to the issue of anti-semitism.

  • avatar
    motron

    Ronnie:

    The current article still contains this line:

    “I can’t help but wonder if Volkswagen may have been more eager to accommodate Mr. Zekelman if he was a customer in the Middle East (well, except for one country).”

    How can this be read any other way than as an accusation that VW’s actions are driven by anti-Semitism? Despite your protestations to the contrary, the anti-Semitism card was clearly played.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Ronnie Schreiber :
    September 4th, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Since you brought up the subject of Pres. Obama, and you think we’re in “post-civil-rights America” how do you feel about his Green Jobs Czar, Van Jones, saying, “And the white polluters and the white environmentalists are essentially steering poison into the people-of-color communities, because they don’t have a racial justice frame.”?

    Sounds like an idiot to me, and that’s coming from an Obama supporter.

    Then again, these days, the bar isn’t exactly set too high for politicians who say stupid things. My former congressman called Democrats “retards” in a victory speech. Sure loved writing THAT moron’s paycheck with my tax dollars.

  • avatar
    H Man

    Apology accepted! *kidding*

    Odd of them. Counter to many posters here, I find the Veyron a work of art, in addition to it’s famous performance. I’ve literally stared at numerous photos, from all angles, with all color combinations/special editions, just like I sometimes will with a painting or sculpture. Wonderful looking thing.

    So why in HELL do they use a non-production Veyron as press release photo? I agree the 18/4 model is a minger. I recommend this eye bleach:
    http://www.blirk.net/wallpaper/bugatti-veyron-centenaire-003.html

    Much better. And, to add to the flames, it’s the German edition. :D

  • avatar
    Kman

    Ronnie,

    Thanks for your detailed response. No flaming was intended nor directed at you or your article. I did think it was well-written, it reads well and, as I said, clarified a number of details that were not clear about this story — the long wait for the refund, the initial signing for a 2009, the plausible potential that VW, with the limited run of money-losing Veyron, were glad to sell Barry’s car to a buyer paying almost a million$ more.

    I stand by your writing.

    Gratuitous?

    That being said, the story is about a contract dispute, an undelivered promise, a car manufacturer that seems to have sold the same car twice, a lawsuit and a sexy car. Thus, the substantial portions referring to various ethnicities, nationalities and races is the very definition of gratuitous: unrelated to the subject matter, unnecessary to furthering the point, unprovoked, unjustified.

    That the gratuitousness brings up ethnicities — Arab, German, Middle-Eastern, Jewish — to obfuscate the dispute is indeed bigotry. Perhaps I could discuss the best word to use: maybe xenophobia is better, or just simply racism. In either case, ethnicities were introduced in a story, with implied clichés about each ethnicity. That’s just not, if I may use the term, kosher.

    Finally, that many of the ensuing posts were about this aspect of the story rather than the Veyron contract dispute, further reinforces the fact that the ethnic-related points of the story were gratuitous.

    – Mark.

  • avatar


    I’m sure that VW’s and the Zekelman’s respective histories are just a quirk of coincidence. But big companies sometimes accommodate less than noble agendas in the pursuit of profit. Malcolm Bricklin got into the car business with Subaru because Toyota and Nissan at the time adhered to the Arab boycott of companies that did business with Israel. I can’t help but wonder if Volkswagen may have been more eager to accommodate Mr. Zekelman if he was a customer in the Middle East (well, except for one country).

    [UPDATE: The parts of this article discussing the potential for anti-Semitic PR have been removed.]

    Umm. I think you left a few bits in.

    The first sentence reminds me of something I heard in my in-laws church once: “Now I’ve got nothing against the catholics, but let me tell you a thing or two…”

    Malcolm

  • avatar
    roadracer

    Why don’t they sell him a 2010 model then? I don’t have a tenth of this guy’s money and I wouldn’t stand for being treated like that.

  • avatar
    zorkor

    Who says that money can bring you happiness? LOL. Ask this guy who spent so much and got nothing in return. I bet he is struggling to sleep at night now.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    This is an extremely interesting thread. Ronnie, I have to thank you for taking so much time and energy to making what may be the best auto related article I’ve read in months.

    IF Volkswagen lied to this fellow and refused to refund all of his money, they have engaged in a fraud. You can throw a thousand but’s in the air but the bottom line is that Mr. Zekelman had his money stolen if this story is accurate and whole.

    IF this is the case (I always emphasize the conditional when dealing with these events in my world), he should get all the money back plus a nominal level of interest. We have a saying in the auction world that if you’re going to be successful, you can’t be fair. You have to be more than fair.

    We don’t know the facts as they stand quite yet. However, it would be a lot easier and better from a purely image driven standpoint to give this fellow his money back… plus a nominal amount showing they’re sorry for the misunderstanding… and move on. Sometimes it’s the best way of getting an unfortunate set of circumstances out of your life.

  • avatar

    That the gratuitousness brings up ethnicities — Arab, German, Middle-Eastern, Jewish — to obfuscate the dispute is indeed bigotry. Perhaps I could discuss the best word to use: maybe xenophobia is better, or just simply racism.

    So now I’m not just a bigot, I’m a racist. By extension, that makes Farago a racist because he published it. Are you saying that TTAC is racist?

    Just who is the target of this supposed racism?

    Xenophobia? An irrational fear of the unknown? I don’t fear what I don’t know. What I do know is scary enough. One thing I don’t know is just who you believe that I’m irrationally fearing. I don’t believe that I expressed any fear in my original post, nor did I make any disparaging remarks about any ethnicities.

    As to obfuscation, there have been a number of comments here that commended me for digging out more details and clarifying the dispute. I guess one man’s obfuscation is another’s clarification.

    I, again, can’t help but wonder if this was a dispute between a a wealthy African American and a company located in the US south that had incontrovertible documented historical ties to the KKK and Jim Crow, and I had alluded to the awkward PR position it put the company in, if you would have accused me of playing the race card. If you would have called me a bigot and a racist.

    I’m still trying to find out just who I’m supposedly bigoted or racist against. I don’t believe that I said anything about Jews, Germans or Arabs as groups, and certainly did not engage in any stereotyping (unlike the poster who stereotyped Jews as wealthy), let alone negative stereotyping.

    In either case, ethnicities were introduced in a story, with implied clichés about each ethnicity. That’s just not, if I may use the term, kosher.

    Just what implied clichés about each ethnicity did your feverish imagination perceive?

    The clichés are in your own mind. Methinks thou dost project too much.

    Finally, that many of the ensuing posts were about this aspect of the story rather than the Veyron contract dispute, further reinforces the fact that the ethnic-related points of the story were gratuitous.

    That’s one possible point of view.

    Of course, it could also mean that some folks have a bug up their behind about uppity Jews.

    Perhaps you’d be happier if everyone just ignored the events of 1933-45.

    In some people’s minds, America will be forever tainted with the twin originals sins of slavery and taking the continent away from the natives (well, more accurately, earlier immigrants), but that Jews should get over the Holocaust.

    The irony is that I’m the opposite of being obsessed about the Holocaust and have been pretty outspoken that focusing on anti-semitism is not spiritually healthy for Jews. Faith should be based on positive things, not fear of the negative. While I admire the Zekelman’s philanthropy, I think the money they’ve given to Jewish education will create a more lasting memorial to their parents and grandparents than the endowment they gave to the Holocaust Memorial Center. If they’d asked me, I would have suggested putting that $10 million into a scholarship fund to help Jewish families send their kids to yeshivas and day schools.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    He should have ordered a ZR1 or a GT-R. There is too much irony in the Veyron being a car from a company started by Hitler, that is built in the most anti-semitic non-muslim (barely) country on earth.

    However, as it is aptly said in Donnie Brasco, “Fugged aboudit. Mercedes? That’s a Jewish car. They didn’t get it enough from the Germans in the war– now they gotta be robbed by them.” Self hatred starts at the German car dealership.

    And that’s why this lapsed Catholic likes the Infiniti G35 (although, for good reason, Chinese and Koreans don’t).

  • avatar
    ohsnapback

    I don’t care how fantastic this car is on the track; it is one ugly ass pastiche.

  • avatar
    pista

    spyspeed +1

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    no_slushbox :
    September 4th, 2009 at 11:51 pm
    Self hatred starts at the German car dealership.

    By the same token, given that it was Boeing aircraft – the B-17 and B-29 – that laid waste to Germany and Japan, would it be an act of “self-hatred” for Lufthansa or JAL to buy a 747?

    I don’t buy that argument for one nanosecond…and I’m Jewish.

  • avatar

    He should have ordered a ZR1 or a GT-R. There is too much irony in the Veyron being a car from a company started by Hitler, that is built in the most anti-semitic non-muslim (barely) country on earth.

    Even more irony. The original Bugatti factory was appropriated by the Germans after they occupied France. Of course the Germans didn’t think of Molsheim as being in France because it’s in Alsace.

    RE: Automotive self hatred. I’m old enough to remember when many Jews didn’t buy Fords because of old Henry’s anti-semitism. The fact that GM’s head comptroller was a Jew, Meyer Prentis, didn’t help Ford sell cars to Jews either, at least around Detroit, where the Prentis family was notable (Prentis’ papers were donated to the library at Temple Beth El – whose former rabbi, Leo Franklin, famously returned a free Model T to Henry Ford after he published The International Jew – Ford was confused because he thought Franklin was one of the “good” Jews). Henry Ford II worked hard at overcoming the stigma his family’s company had in the Jewish community, donating to Jewish charities and setting up a CKD Escort plant in Israel in the 1970s. It worked. Starting in the late 60s and early 70s, affluent Jews started switching from the Buick deuce & a quarter and Caddys to Lincolns.

    The stigma on Mercedes and BMW products lasted a little bit longer, but combine weakened ethnic attachments, the fading of the Holocaust into the mist of history, and a desire for de rigeur status symbols, and the final barriers fell.

    I’m still not sure that I’d buy a German car new. I’ve owned VWs, but you can maintain an air-cooled VW without ever buying parts from the dealer.

    I’m friendly with some other Jews who work the car shows and they’ve admitted to me that they also get nervous and start looking where the exits are when they hear some guy start to drone in German or a German accent at press conferences.

    Survival mechanisms die hard.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Ronnie Schreiber :
    September 5th, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    RE: Automotive self hatred. I’m old enough to remember when many Jews didn’t buy Fords because of old Henry’s anti-semitism.

    Reminds me of an old, old joke…

    Hymie Steinberg, Max Finkleman and Norm Goldberg walk into Henry Ford’s office to sell him a new air conditioning system for Ford cars. Ford asks them how much the want for the system, and they tell him $1 million, plus they want their names on every unit. Ford says there’s no way he can do that – he hates Jews.

    So, Hyman says to him…how about our first names only? And the deal was made. So, from that day forward, every air conditioner in eveyr Ford was clearly marked with “Hi, Max and Norm.”

    (rimshot)

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    @ Ronnie –

    BTW, Henry II might have tried to look like he wasn’t a bigot, but read Iaccoca’s book…apparently he hated Italians instead of Jews.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Perhaps you’d be happier if everyone just ignored the events of 1933-45.

    This old strawman is getting really, really old, and has no place in this discussion.

    The use of Occam’s Razor might be appropriate here. If one wants to speculate about what happened, it would make more sense to start with the regulatory aspects.

    The model year is incorporated into a vehicle’s VIN number. It isn’t just a matter of titling it however they feel like at the drop of a hat, because the VIN has to be consistent throughout the vehicle and has to incorporate the model year. (It’s the tenth digit/ letter of the VIN.) Once the vehicle has been built, it’s going to be too late to change the model year.

    The fault most likely lies with both an overeager car salesman and communication breakdown with a factory that didn’t pay attention to this particular caveat. There’s no reason supported in this op-ed for anyone to suspect that jackbooted thugs marched in from Arabia to hold secret meetings with Ze Evil Chermans about how they could use this Veyron as an overture for Kristallnacht the Sequel.

    None of that is Mr. Zekelman’s fault, and the man should get his money back. But leave the Nazis and the Arab fixation out of this one. This particular violation of Godwin’s Law created a tangent that could have been easily avoided with a few minutes of legal research.

  • avatar

    “Perhaps you’d be happier if everyone just ignored the events of 1933-45.”

    This old strawman is getting really, really old, and has no place in this discussion.

    Fine, just so long as you are consistent and take the same stance when blacks bring up “400 years of oppression and slavery” or when Amerindians accuse the US of “genocide”, or when Palestinians bemoan their so-called “naqba”, ‘catastrophe’ of 1948.

    There’s no reason supported in this op-ed for anyone to suspect that jackbooted thugs marched in from Arabia to hold secret meetings with Ze Evil Chermans about how they could use this Veyron as an overture for Kristallnacht the Sequel.

    I said it was a quirk of circumstance. If that’s not enough for you, oh well.

    I can’t help but think that if this was a Detroit car company in a similarly awkward situation, they’d have fewer defenders, and even if people didn’t say they acted deliberately they’d be criticized for not realizing how it looked.

    As for Godwin, its citation is almost reflexive these days and is often used as a heckler’s veto whether or not the reference to the Third Reich is appropriate.

    Since the article was posted, I’ve discussed the mixed reaction to it with lots of Jewish friends and acquaintances. Not one has said it was inappropriate to bring up the Holocaust. On the contrary, they thought it was a natural hook for the story.

    Farago obviously thinks the article can stand without it. Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit thought it was worth linking to in this form so maybe I should have been more disciplined in my writing. One never really knows when less is more or if an interesting facet is spice or distraction.

    The great rabbi Avtalyion, in Ethics of the Fathers, warned to be careful of your words lest you be misunderstood. On the other hand, Karl Popper said that it’s impossible to not be misunderstood.

  • avatar
    bankerdanny

    I don’t know, this guy reneged on his contract when Bugatti decided not to issue 2009 model year cars?

    What a pissy excuse. VW SHOULD fight this. They were delivering him the car HE ordered, equipped to HIS specs, not a leftover built for somebody else.

    Sounds like another whiny rich guy throwing a fit and a law suit based on form over substance.

    And the anti-Semitic aspect is ludicrous. You minimize true antisemitism, of which there is much in this world, when you throw it out in a case like this.

  • avatar
    bankerdanny

    Low hanging fruit. So I’m no tzadik. The reality is that the Holocaust is in the background of any interaction between Germans and Jews.

    Bullcrap. I’ve been to Dachau. I understand the history, and have nothing but contempt for deniers. But it is unfair to automatically be suspicious of negative Jewish/German interaction. If Jews want others to let go of the idea that Jews ‘control’ banking, or Hollywood, or the Republican party, then they need to let go of their own prejudices and guilt by association tendencies.

    And as I stated above, Zekelman’s excuse to refuse to accept delivery is pretty damn flimsy. And if all VW wants is the Detroit dealer to get the commission, that is very fair since the car was very likely sold through another dealer and why should the Detroit guy get screwed over a decision that VW made regarding model years and Zekelman’s juvenile response.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Since the article was posted, I’ve discussed the mixed reaction to it with lots of Jewish friends and acquaintances. Not one has said it was inappropriate to bring up the Holocaust.

    Then you choose your acquaintances poorly.

    Your reply continues with the obfuscation, and fails to address a basic point: A model year can’t be changed once the car is built.

    You missed that in your quest to rewage WWII, which led to this rather sloppy result. Since this is a website dedicated to cars, you’re supposed to research these things before you submit these for publication.

    When you claimed that “Bugatti didn’t want to title the car as a 2009 model,” you should have known before publication that the model year would not be possible to change once the car had already been built. The VIN would have already been stamped on those various parts, and could not have been changed.

  • avatar


    Sounds like another whiny rich guy throwing a fit and a law suit based on form over substance.

    The “form” in question is a contract. Just enforcement of contracts is the basis of all trade in a country ruled by law.

    I don’t know, this guy reneged on his contract when Bugatti decided not to issue 2009 model year cars?

    How can you say Zekelman reneged on anything? He paid the deposit, he paid the balance and days before delivery Bugatti said they would not ship the car as ordered. The only party in this situation who could possibly be accused of reneging on anything is Bugatti for refusing to deliver the car as ordered. They’re the ones that didn’t ship the car and they’re the ones that sold it to someone else while still holding Zekelman’s money (so much for the argument that as a custom ordered car they’d have some difficulty selling it to someone else). Maybe they thought since he paid for it already, he’d take it as an ’08 regardless of the signed agreements for an ’09.

    It’s not clear when Bugatti decided to skip the ’09 model year, or if Zekelman could have known they were skipping ’09 when he ordered the car. I’ve searched for some kind of press release or news unrelated to this litigation and can find nothing except for news about the final hard top cars and the start of the Grand Sport production run as 2010 models. Bugatti’s agent that sold the car as a 2009, took the money, and transferred it to Bugatti/VW. Now they want to say the agent who shouldn’t have taken money for an ’09 deserves $75,000 of Zekelman’s money.

    They were delivering him the car HE ordered, equipped to HIS specs, not a leftover built for somebody else.

    Right, and one of his specs was a 2009. The model year of the car is as much a subject to contract as the specified interior trim. Your nic says that you’re a banker. I’m sure you believe that agreements signed by your customers and others with whom you do business should abide by the terms of the contracts.

    As I said, your argument that the company is somehow harmed by his refusal to take delivery of a custom ordered car is refuted by their sale of it to someone else. Who knows? The notoriety of this lawsuit might even make that particular model more valuable because of it’s unique provenance.

    You can’t say that they made a car specially for him and then say that one condition of the contract is void.

    There was a signed contract for a 2009. Money was paid. I don’t know why you think VW should fight this as they are holding Zekelman’s money.

    I’m kinda bemused. From all accounts I can find Barry is a gearhead and a good guy who took over his father’s relatively small business (5 employees, $2M in sales) when he was 19 and made it a huge success. He likes cars and boats, seems to be a regular guy, and yet there are some folks on the automotive sites like you that think he’s some kind of jerk or douchebag for being able to live an automotive dream. It’s not like he’s Jalopnik’s SLR Guy. Fortunately for Zekelman, he’s good at business and can afford toys that most of the B&B would love to be able to drive, let alone own. For gosh sakes, the guy owns an Enzo. I’m sure just about any TTAC reader would enjoy talking cars with him, as he seems to have a clue about nice cars. Same with boats. Michigan has a lot of boaters, more than any other state, including Florida and California. From published comments, the boating community on Lake St. Clair, where Zekelman runs his catamaran, says he’s just a boater who happens to have the fastest boat on the lake.

    I’m not his press agent. I’ve swapped a couple emails with him and his lawyer in this case coincidentally is an old friend who also, coincidentally was once my own attorney. Frankly, I think those coincidences are suspicious enough that I think it’s perfectly reasonable for someone to suspect that I’m part of a publicity campaign. That’s why I made the disclaimer that I did, and that’s why, in the comments, I clarified that I was expressing my own opinions, not those of either Mr. Zekelman or his attorney. Coincidences always lead to suspicions.

    Does his family flaunt their wealth? I’d say that they are very wealthy people who keep a relatively low profile.

    And the anti-Semitic aspect is ludicrous. You minimize true antisemitism, of which there is much in this world, when you throw it out in a case like this.

    I’m the last person who’d want to devalue the charge of anti-semitism. That’s why I never said that VW was anti-semitic, in fact I said that it was a coincidence. Should I not note the coincidence? I specifically said that the only reason that made sense to me was not wanting to deliver a highly collectible one of a kind and piss off their other customers who had paid more money for less collectible versions.

    It would be insane for VW to do this for anti-semitic reasons, and while I question their business and automotive judgment at times, I don’t think the people running VW are insane.

    I also think, though, that VW should have recognized how awkward the circumstances were and made the case go away. I started typing the word “zekelman” on Google and even before I got the results, actually, before I finished typing out the word, when I got as far as “zekel”, Google (or Firefox) suggestions included the word Holocaust. On the results page, the first two listings are what appear to be sponsored hits from the Holocaust Memorial Center. Among the first 10 actual results is the HMC’s own site. The others are news reports about their boats and his business, some of which mention the HMC contribution.

    But it is unfair to automatically be suspicious of negative Jewish/German interaction. If Jews want others to let go of the idea that Jews ‘control’ banking, or Hollywood, or the Republican party, then they need to let go of their own prejudices and guilt by association tendencies.

    Essentially you’re saying that Jews cause anti-semitism with our own prejudices. Are we also whiny and pushy?

    Do you apply that same standard to blacks, gypsies, homosexuals, or any other group that can point to documented historical events of oppression?

    The only people that think that Jews control the Republican party are those with fevered dystopian fantasies about a cabal of evil Jewish neocons, which frankly, sounds a bit like, dare I say, an anti-semitic conspiracy theory. So it is rather interesting that you bring it up. American Jews vote for and financially support the Democratic Party in overwhelming numbers, 80%+. Reagan was a high water mark for the GOP with 39% of the vote. Jews voted 85% for Obama.

    As I said, the Holocaust shadows all contemporary German-Jewish interaction. Noting history is not the same as accusing Germans of being perpetual anti-semites. Of course that would be as racialist as the Nazis.

    I’ll do an honest thought experiment. I haven’t done the search yet, but I’m going to do a Google search on [germany israel trade] and see how many articles don’t mention the Holocaust.

    BRB.

    Okay, the first hit is Wikipedia, natch, and the words Nazi, genocide and Holocaust appear in the second sentence of the Wiki entry. The next hit on Google is the official Israeli gov’t website for their Economic Mission in Germany, which interestingly does not mention the events of 1933-45. The third hit is the site for the German Foreign Office which says

    Germany has a special relationship with Israel owing to its responsibility for the Shoah, the systematic genocide of some six million European Jews during the National Socialist dictatorship…

    The unique relations between Germany and Israel are a cornerstone of German foreign policy.

    So, should I be more Catholic than the Pope? The German government acknowledges the “unique” circumstances. Like I said, by using that angle the writing might have been lazy or topically cliched, but I wasn’t playing any kind of card or hinting at anything, just saying a guy has to wonder sometimes. Like I said, coincidences are suspicious.

    I stopped at the end of the first ten results, but perhaps of relevance to the topic of the post, further down the first 10 results from Google is a 1969 article from Time magazine titled, “Trade: Should an Israeli Buy a Volkswagen?”

  • avatar

    Then you choose your acquaintances poorly.

    Your friends are all poopyheads too. Sheesh.

    Since you don’t know those people your statement is not just childish but also ignorant and beneath contempt. If nice people want to spend time with me, I can use all the good influences I can get.

    I guess that group includes the local school superintendent, whom I met with this morning about a matter of district policy. He was looking forward to the president’s talk to schoolkids today. His last few jobs were in small towns and his bio cites his desire to raise his kids in a more urban and ethnically diverse setting. He doesn’t like the idea of teachers carrying guns. So I’m guessing he’s a political liberal and doesn’t like stereotyping people.

    As I was leaving, I noticed the corkboard by his desk had an announcement about a seminar at the Holocaust Memorial Center. That didn’t surprise me, as the HMC actively works with school districts in the area on field trips and such. I can’t recall the exact subject of the seminar but it was not exclusively Holocaust related, more generally about morals and ethics. Zekelman’s family name is right there on the announcement so I started to tell him about the mixed response to my post here. He said he was familiar with the Zekelmans’ name because he was at the event naming the facility for their family.

    As soon as I said one of the Zekelmans was suing Bugatti which is owned by VW, his eyebrows went up and an ironic smile crept across his face. I never said Nazi, I never even said Holocaust, just gestured to the announcement, I don’t even think I said German, I just said “Bugatti which is owned by VW”.

    It’s not just a question of Jews being sensitive to the subject or oversensitive to the subject. It’s a natural reaction to plenty of people.

    The school superintendent is not Jewish. He started in education teaching German. He lived in Germany as a Fullbright Scholar.

    I’ve said all I can. This is getting tiresome.

    Your reply continues with the obfuscation, and fails to address a basic point: A model year can’t be changed once the car is built.

    I didn’t address it because it’s irrelevant. Since you insist, the fact that Bugatti decided to build the car with a 2008 VIN and associated stamping numbers doesn’t mitigate their guilt. From the outset Zekelman was led to believe he would get a 2009. If they built it with a 2008 VIN and associated component stampings, that’s their mistake, not Zekelman’s.

    Since they’ve already been compensated for the same car twice, what’s stopping them from building him a 2009 with the appropriate VIN etc.?

    Your point about the VIN holds no water.

    You missed that in your quest to rewage WWII, which led to this rather sloppy result. Since this is a website dedicated to cars, you’re supposed to research these things before you submit these for publication.

    Sloppy result? Are you saying that Farago did a bad editing job? I already conceded the topic was low hanging fruit and the article might have been more focused from an automotive standpoint. OTOH, plenty of folks liked it as is. If we all agreed all the time life would be boring.

    As for rewaging WWII, I’m pretty sure it’s been over since 1945. SpikeTV was running a Band of Brothers marathon over the Labor Day weekend and it wasn’t titled Bund der Brüder so, like I said, I’m pretty sure the Nazis lost.

    When you claimed that “Bugatti didn’t want to title the car as a 2009 model,” you should have known before publication that the model year would not be possible to change once the car had already been built. The VIN would have already been stamped on those various parts, and could not have been changed.

    Fine, I’ll change “didn’t want to” to:

    Bugatti couldn’t title it as a 2009 model because they didn’t bother to read the contract their agent signed and they ended up building a 2008. Then they refused to build him a 2009 and sold the car he ordered to someone else.

    Happy now?

    C’mon. You have a clue about the bespoke and carrozzeria programs. Maybach has a special personalization studio in each dealership. Bugatti themselves call the factory the “atelier”, a term from designer fashions, if I’m not mistaken. Are you telling me that they noticed everything on the build sheet except for the model year?

    It’s funny how so many people think Zekelman must be a rich douchebag, when it’s the companies like Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Bugatti that are the ones who act haughtily as if they are doing you a favor to let you buy their cars. Ferrari handpicked 20 Ferrari owners to buy the FXX, the track only Enzo variant. Remember, they’ve sold every Veyron they’ve built, almost 80% of the announced production run of 300. The economy may suck but to well heeled car guys, the Veyron isn’t exactly a crapshoot in terms of collectibility. There are two on eBay, an ’06 for $1.25 million and an ’08 for $1.4 million, so they hold their value pretty well. Bugatti’s taken orders for 20 of the Grand Sport editions at $2.0 million a pop, so the car is still in demand. Like the Enzo, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity with a limited production run. So maybe Bugatti figured they could do whatever they wanted and Zekelman would still salivate over their 1001HP creation. They tried to play chicken with a guy who drives boats at 200mph.

    Once the economy turns around, I expect someone to try to follow the Enzo and Bugatti model and make an even more exclusive and more expensive car. It’ll be interesting to see how much the new McLaren and Gordon Murray supercars are.

    And that’s why I like Josef Ganz’ Standard Superior Volkswagen.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Your friends are all poopyheads too.

    As is typical, you miss the point. In this case, you surround yourself with people who share your (rather extreme) views, and then feel validated when they agree with you.

    That makes as much sense as some skinhead feeling vindication because there are posters over at Stormfront who agree with him, which is to say that it makes no sense at all. Your acquaintances are not a litmus test for logical reason, particularly when their grasp of the “facts” is the spin that you provide and filter for them.

    I didn’t address it because it’s irrelevant.

    It’s clearly relevant. You just don’t want to admit it because to do so would torpedo your thesis and expose the lack of work that you put into this piece.

    When you made this statement — “Bugatti didn’t want to title the car as a 2009 model” — it’s quite obvious that you didn’t know that changing the model year of a car that has already been built isn’t simply a matter of arbitrarily assigning it a new model year. They can’t — they’d be violating federal law to do that.

    You did a sloppy job of researching this piece. I assume that you were sloppy because you formed your opinion based upon your post-Shoah martyrdom complex, instead of the facts of the case. Rewaging WWII is more fun that reviewing federal legislation about model years, I guess.

    It is reasonable to question why Mr. Zekelman was not given a refund or how Bugatti could have blown it with the model year in the first place. But you should have known that the model year couldn’t be changed on a dime, as you suggested in your article.

    Since they’ve already been compensated for the same car twice, what’s stopping them from building him a 2009 with the appropriate VIN etc.?

    That’s a totally fair question — and you could have potentially given your argument some value had you posed that to the manufacturer, instead of posing it as a hypothetical.

  • avatar
    carnutz

    Wanna hear the real truth. Apparently, the company should be sued for not notifying the dealer ahead of time. The dealer only can do so much. If they had the money in hand, they would have given it to him. That dude is even lucky that they tried to offer him a 2008 model. They only made 200 of them. I mean, think about it. Its him versus other people who want a Bugatti, and there is no way to tip the scale.


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