Far be it from me to criticize others for trying to leverage profit. I like capitalism, so charging rich folks ridiculous amounts of money for trifles only the hoi oligoi can afford is just ducky with me. Some years ago (you can figure out when from the prices) I remember reading an automotive column at the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal which said that when you’re buying an expensive German car, a S-Klasse Mercedes Benz or a BMW 7 Series, you have to be careful when checking off items on the options list, because you can easily turn a $80,000 car into one nicely into the six figures. My thought at the time was that not many folks were scrimping to make the payments on an S or 7 and that if you could genuinely afford spending 80 grand on a car, you could probably swing the payments on one costing 25 or 30 percent more. Still, the prices that companies like Porsche and Ferrari charge for some of their optional features are worthy of note, and possibly mockery for the seller and buyers as well. Well, you can put Terry Southern’s Magic Christion on the DVD player or cue up Badfinger’s Come And Get It, because today we’re going to look at how some fools part with their money, sonny.
Now and then you read something and you actually have some knowledge of the topic. My day job is running a one-man custom machine embroidery shop and a lot of the work that I do is for car and motorcycle enthusiasts and clubs. I regularly embroider leather and I’ve worked on some upholstery, so while reading the Autoextremist’s review of a 2014 Bentley Flying Spur that had almost $40,000 worth of options added to a $200K base price, it caught my eye that part of that forty thousand dollars was $640 for “Emblem stitching”, embroidering the winged Bentley logo on the seat headrests. By my estimation, Bentley charging $640 for embellishing the four headrests with the company logo has a profit margin of greater than 96% (assuming their embroidery equipment is already paid for). Nice work if you can get it.
To give you some perspective, I was once asked by the owner of a 1978 Corvette if I could embroider the ‘Vette’s 25th Anniversary logo on the new leather seat covers he was putting in the car. I think that I charged him $75, most of it for digitizing the logo into an embroidery design, a one time fee, and since I was working on an already constructed item and needed to take special steps to be able to get it hooped and on the machine I charged a lot more for the actual stitching than I would normally charge for just embroidering a flat, blank piece of leather. Assuming I already had the design digitized, if someone gave me a piece of leather and asked me to embroider something with a stitch count similar to that of the Bentley logo, for one item I’d charge no more than $15 and for quantity contract work $5 or less, including labor and profit. The equipment isn’t cheap, a modern, single head embroidery machine today runs maybe $12,000-$15,000 new, but that’s peanuts compared to most of the machinery in Bentley’s Crewe factory. Even used in limited production, at $160 a logo, embroidery equipment gets amortized pretty quickly. Also, a logo like that takes only minutes to stitch, so labor costs for someone to operate and watch the machine are minimal. Bentley is charging $640 for about $20 worth of embroidery. Of course, if they have to match a customer’s request for a specific color thread, costs do go up. A 5000 meter spool of embroidery thread, good for hundreds, maybe thousands, of logos, costs about $7.
As I said at the outset, I don’t have a problem with making a profit and I certainly don’t object to charging people to put logos on things, since that’s what I do, but for 640 bucks, I’d not only embroider your logo on the leather for a carfull of of headrests, I’d put the logo and a detailed embroidery of the car itself on a couple of made in the U.S.A. matching Nappa leather jackets, jacket price included. I guess I have to figure out how to market my embroidery services to Bentley buyers.
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading. RJS