SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - For the truly wealthy, there's no such thing as a bad time to buy a supercar, even when the rest of the world is panicking about a global recession -- or so a Singaporean luxury car importer hopes.
Auto Palace Pte Ltd, part of Singapore's Hong Seh Group, last week formally launched Dutch super car Spyker to sell to the city state's elite. Prices start from around $660,000 (1 million Singapore dollars). Hong Seh Group also imports Ferraris and Maseratis.
Spyker will produce only about 100 hand-made cars in 2008 and the model put on display, a C8 Laviolette short-wheel base, exuded rarity with its burned almond orange paint work, polished aluminum air cooling ducts and single-hinged winged doors that pop open with a touch of a button.
The rear-mounted 400-horsepower V8 engine can propel the 1.275 tonne (2,811 lb) all-aluminum car to 300 kilometers (186 miles) an hour.
"If you look at the type of client we sell cars to, it's people with a net worth of US$50 million-plus," Spyker's Asia-Pacific manager Martyn Schilte told Reuters in Singapore.
"There's no really good or really bad time to launch," he added before hopping into the C8 Laviolette's hand-stitched leather and polished aluminum interior to rev the engine.
"We're different. We're not looking at people who've just made a little bit of money," he said, pointing out each car takes, on average, 600 man-hours to assemble.
"We're selling to people who can take a hit, who like to enjoy life no matter what."
Spyker makes three models, with two more going into production: the C8 Aileron and the D8 Peking-to-Paris super SUV, complete with 600 hp engine.
Schilte says the factory in Holland plans to ramp up production to about 300 a year and says the design of the cars draws inspiration in part from aviation. The company first started in 1875 as a horse-carriage builder before merging with a Dutch aircraft maker during World War One.
Schilte, who is based in China, said Singapore's booming sales of supercars over the past four years made it a key market. "It's a wealth center," he said, adding the company planned to expand into Malaysia, South Korea, Japan and Australia.
Auto Palace executive director Edward Tan said the financial crisis will affect his business.
But Tan, also executive director of Hong Seh Motors, believes 2008's sales of about 40 Ferraris and 100 Maseratis will be the same next year.
"People still need their toys," he said, adding he was still gauging interest in the Spyker marque before determining how many he could sell.
"There is still a market. People will still enjoy the cars and the luxury lifestyle because once you're used to it you don't get rid of it. Maybe you just buy less."
Editing by Miral Fahmy