The Ultimate Automotive Status Symbol: The Indian-Market Bugatti Veyron

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
the ultimate automotive status symbol the indian market bugatti veyron

Everyone knows that buying a Bugatti Veyron has a lot more to do with projecting “because I can” status than with the car’s actual abilities. After all, there is no shortage of supercars available for a fraction of the Veyron’s $1m+ pricetag that offer more capability than anyone would ever be able to actually use on the road. Rather, the point of a car like the Veyron is purely symbolic: as the fastest, most technologically complex production car on the market, it speaks to the superlative nature of its owner. And as rolling proof that you can drop a cool mil anytime you want, and still be able to afford the Veyron’s private jet-level maintenance costs, nothing beats a Bugatti. Unless, of course, you buy your Veyron in India. Automotive News [sub] reports that, thanks to India’s 110 percent import tax, a newly-available Bugatti Gran Sport will cost plutocrats of the subcontinent a hefty $3.6m. And, the problem of driving one on Indian roads aside, it’s not as ridiculous a proposition as you might think. According to the report

the combined net worth of India’s 100 wealthiest people climbed to a record $300 billion this year, equivalent to a quarter of India’s gross domestic product,
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  • PeriSoft PeriSoft on Oct 28, 2010

    Unless I'm misreading something, it's an apples-oranges comparison - gdp is not wealth. The country's net wealth is vastly higher. GDP is a measure of output within a year, not total value. Income is not the same as net worth. That said, I know one of those 100 guys - maybe he's near the top. Gated mansion, marble floors, armed guards, dozens of servants, a huge underground garage with everything you can imagine in it. He's a cool guy, but like every other well-off Indian I spoke to while I was there, he treated his servants like they didn't exist. I'm not even sure the wealthy are -aware- of the 95% of people around them who live in grinding poverty. One guy I spoke to seemed taken aback that people thought there's a lot of poverty in India. I've been there a couple of times. Best part? The less wealthy are honest and welcoming - if disturbingly deferential. No, obsequious. Second best is the crazy trucks. Worst is the absurd injustice of the place. In the US, the uber rich may be arrogant, but while they might treat their underlings like dirt, they treat them like humans. Seeing people speak to me as an equal, and then turn to their uniformed servants and issue orders as if they were robots... No eye contact, no acknowledgment, no indication that they even connected with their employees enough to scorn them... It was chilling, even more than the income inequality. After two weeks I was nearly nuts from never opening a door or getting my own drink or picking up a dropped pen. It was profoundly disturbing, and would have been with or without the vast and obscene wealth. Oh, and yeah, there's no damn place to drive any supercars. Even if the roads were smooth enough, the traffic would be hopeless: any highway is jammed with ancient trucks doing 30kph. The 150km drive from the airport (chaufeurred by his driver) took five hours.

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    • Sajeev Mehta Sajeev Mehta on Oct 29, 2010

      Nailed it! I just about punched the guy who told me that most people in India have health care. He's right, because the girl I saw on the way to that social gathering didn't:

      1. Live in a nearby slum

      2. Wear tattered clothing

      3. Defecated about 5 ft away from the road. A well traveled road.

      Except she did. And rich people in India treat poor people like animals.

  • Forraymond Forraymond on Oct 28, 2010

    "the combined net worth of India’s 100 wealthiest people climbed to a record $300 billion this year, equivalent to a quarter of India’s gross domestic product," This is what 30 years of trickle down economics has done. The "Free Trade" lies have helped, too. In a pre-Reagan, off-shoring, union-busting world, that money would still be in the USA. India has cheap labor - why are they moving up so fast? They, and CHINA are getting OUR MONEY.

  • PJungnitsch PJungnitsch on Oct 28, 2010

    India has always been a place where a few wealthy own a huge amount. Most third world countries are like that. That's why change happens so slowly, because for the people with the power everything is JUST FINE. They eat like kings, dress like royalty, own huge properties. Lots of poor people just means that servants are a dime a dozen. Still, what really paralyzed India was nationalizing everything. Once they loosened those constraints the country came alive. Hindustans, Enfields, and Thumbs Up gave way to Suzukis, Hondas, and Coca-cola. On the driving side of things, nothing like being on a bus at night, driving without headlights, when it pulls out to pass one of those slow moving trucks on a blind corner (and meets another bus, also without headlights).

  • The Guvna The Guvna on Oct 29, 2010

    The disparity in wealth noted in the article is one which has existed for millennia. in most regions and civilizations you care to name (though the Romans actually took a good many measures to limit the expanse of any one man's wealth) and is unlikely to reverse course any time soon, sadly. Whether the U.S. will ever follow the lead of, say, the French and actually do something about it remains to be seen, although I suspect they are a damned sight closer to it than Canada, for example. But rather than get sucked into an inevitable merits-of-capitalism-v-socialism debate, I want to focus on one particular aspect of the piece that almost always comes up in relation to high performance cars, and as such has been getting on my nuts for a good long while now. Why, oh why, must even the mere mention of a car capable of reaching the interesting side of 200 mph lead to endless, predictable, short-sighted mewling about never actually being able to fully exploit said cars abilities? No, if you happen to believe that the bloke in the bleeding Bugatti Veyron travels the same paths in life as you and spends his days driving through suburban school zones or urban gridlock at rush hour, they can't exploit them. But here's the thing: If a man (or woman, I suppose, though apparently Bugatti have yet to sell a single example to the fairer sex) can afford to drop seven figures on a car as a play thing, you know what else he is able to afford? Montana. The "where can they actually use that performance?" question is so bewilderingly naive and daft that I can scarcely comprehend it. The average Bugatti Veyron owner is going to be in a position to purchase a sizable enough chunk of the countryside for that issue to be almost entirely irrelevant. Ranch properties in the western United States, for instance, often consist of tens of thousands of nice flat acres, enough for any enterprising billionaire to play with. And if you're willing to look as far as Australia (and what self-respecting billionaire wouldn't, really), a cursory check of their country's largest farm and ranch estate agent's website reveals a half dozen properties exceeding *one million acres* in size. So yes, Virginia, there is a place for them to use their cars to their fullest capabilities. There are, in fact, a great many. There just aren't anywhere near as many for YOU to do so...

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    • The Guvna The Guvna on Oct 29, 2010

      Nick, if I was told that the sum total of my Lamborghini Miura ownership experience would be rolling it backwards and forwards the length of the drive for an hour each day, running it to red line once, and staring at it for every other waking hour, I would *still* feel like the luckiest sonofabitch on Earth.