'The days of someone handing over £250k are long gone': How do you afford a Lamborghini? We meet the salesman to find out... and take one for a test drive
- Lamborghini sales are increasingly on finance, reveals supercar dealer
- YouTube stars and gamers are now among the most common clients
- Some customers even purchase their £200,000 supercars entirely over email
- What's it like to drive a Lamborghini? We had a brief outing to find out
'The days of someone walking into the showroom on a whim and dumping £250,000 on the desk are long gone – nobody does that anymore.'
Those are the words of Steve Higgins, a senior sales executive at HR Owen Lamborghini, in the heart of the capital's supercar hub in South Kensington. He's been working at the showroom for 14 years, ironing out deals on Murciélagos, Gallardos, Aventadors and Huracáns for the rich and famous.
'Financing is now a very common way to buy these cars today,' he told me during our visit to the modestly decorated headquarters that's responsible for selling more Lamborghinis than any other dealership in the world.
Window shopping: Lamborghini London has to have its front windows cleaned every day due to the smudges from hands and faces of those peering inside. But who is actually stepping foot in the showroom and buying the cars? More young people, the dealer says
It seems that even supercar buyers are watching the pennies nowadays.
'Since 2008, people have become more savvy with how they use their money', says Steve. 'Our customers want to fund other projects, such as property and investments, with their cash. That means there's a heavy demand for finance when it comes to their vehicles.'
But despite the impact of the recession eight years ago, it is over the last five years that he believes the most significant shift change has occurred - both to how and who is purchasing brand new 200mph-plus motors.
'If we had a 19-year-old come into the showroom half a decade ago we'd have had to tell them to come back in four years' time because only then would we be able to get insurance for them,' he explained.
'But now insurers have come to the markets because they've realised this is a growing sector - specifically with the rise of YouTubers and gamers - making our client base much wider than it's ever been before.'
Yes, you read that right. People who make their money from YouTube and playing computer games online are among the new breed of customers driving supercar sales.
This is true of Aston Martins, Ferraris, and Lamborghinis: there was a time when these cars were exclusively owned by footballers, pop and film stars, and those at the top of the nation's executive tree.
But with the birth of a new breed of social media celebrity, more affordable running costs and tempting finance deals on the table, supercar ownership is diversifying.
The Lamborghini London showroom in South Kensington was responsible for the most global car sales in 2016, making it the number one Lamborghini dealership in the world
For Steve, a man in his 50s, this wave of more youthful buyers has required a new mindset to make sure he's keeping some of the nation's biggest social influencers happy, even if he might not be sure who they are.
'You don’t know who is walking through the door to buy a car,' he said.
'When my sons see me on social media tagged in pictures with these people they tell me they can't believe I've met this person and that.
'I guess it must be like if I found out my dad had met Jimmy Page from Led Zepplin when I was young.'
Even if he doesn't know the background of these potential new clients, Steve knows they're now more informed than ever.
'Part of the wisdom that is available to everybody online means these customers are naturally more knowledgeable themselves,' he said.
HOW MUCH IS A SERVICE?
Like many supercar brands, Lamborghini offers a fixed-price servicing package to take the surprises out of running costs.
How expensive is it for a Huracán? Here's a run down for the first three years of ownership:
- First year service: £2505.80
- Second annual service: £3230.21
- Third annual service: £4149.60
What about wear and tear? Here are just a few examples:
- Replace front brake pads: £850
- Replace front tyres: £1050
- Replace rear tyres: £1150
'They don’t need an accountant or financial adviser to tell them what to do with their money - residual values, servicing, initial cost, insurance and all the other costs associated with supercar ownership is available to them.
'They don’t care about history or the brand heritage like some of our older customers – they just want a car. They know the colour, interior spec and wheels before they even make contact.'
In fact, it seems many of these new customers are so well informed that they barely feel the need to use resources like Steve at all.
'We deal an awful lot via email which is fed to us via online marketing and the website. We try to follow that up by booking in an appointment at the showroom so they can see, touch and smell the product.
'But people are very busy these days and don't necessarily want that experience. In some cases you can be discussing the specification of the car over email without ever having a verbal conversation with the buyer - it's almost like online shopping.'
So are there cases of selling £180,000-plus vehicles without ever meeting the buyer?
'It is more common than you’d imagine - we’ve sold cars entirely by email having never spoken face-to-face,' Steve confirms.
'There have been instances where I've met a buyer for the first time on handover, which is the one thing that we absolutely insist on doing in person as it's our final quality check and the last chance to make sure the customer is happy.'
Wealthy younger buyers are becoming frequent customers at the dealership, thanks to more affordable finance packages, insurance and running costs
There's nothing sensible about owning a Lamborghini, especially in congested London. But they are becoming a more common sight in the capital than ever before
Are Lamborghini buyers now more sensible?
ARE FOOTBALLERS STILL BUYING LAMBORGHINIS?
Steve Higgins, sales executive, HR Owen Lamborghini London
'If you’re a footballer you’re still expected to drive around in a car of a certain ilk – you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. It is part of the rite of passage of being a footballer and we've seen no decline in those customers.
'We rarely ever deal with the player though - it will always be their agent.
'They’re long suffering. They’ve been told precisely what to get, so we have to be completely transparent with them as they’re the middle man between us and the player.
'Footballers don’t want to be fed a load of b*****ks just because they’re earning a million dollars an hour - you have to be as transparent as possible with the agent because if the customer thinks you've taken them for anything as little as an extra £100 they’ll never deal with you again.'
Many would argue that there's very little that's sensible about purchasing a car that costs in the region of £200,000, has a top speed that would see your licence stripped for a substantial period and has about as much ground clearance as a skirting board.
Yet, a modern-day Lamborghini is a far cry from the highly awkward to drive cars of the past, such as the famous Countach and Diablo.
And the people who are forking out a small fortune on Lamborghinis are making sure they're equipped to cope with being driven every day, by ordering unexciting optional extras as you and I would for our Ford Fiestas and Vauxhall Corsas.
'There are many misconceptions about how much our customers spend on options,' Mr Higgins said.
'There isn't a book of extras with reams of pages - we supply one A4 sheet and there are just three boxes on the piece of paper I recommend buyers tick.
'Rear parking sensors with the reversing camera and the front-lift suspension (which raises the nose of the car electronically so it doesn't scrape on speed bumps) are two must haves - 95 per cent of the time you won't need to use either but you will bless both features when you have to call on them.
'Finally, I always suggest having navigation and the bluetooth package.'
HR Owen loaned us a Lamborghini Huracán to get the supercar feeling for ourselves. The registration plate probably makes the driver look like a drug dealer
What's it like to drive a Lamborghini?
HR Owen kindly offered me the keys to one of their Huracán LP610-4 Spyders for a brief test drive, which I took full advantage of.
The beauty of the convertible is that you not only get to enjoy the full V10 engine chorus but you can also hear some of the remarks being made - the first of which came before pulling away from the showroom.
'He looks too young to own that,' a passerby commented at an audible level. Too young - at 33 years of age - I certainly am not, as I had discovered from my chat with Steve earlier. Too poor, absolutely.
In the mile drive from the South Kensington dealership to Harrods on Brompton Road I lost count of the number of photos being taken.
Knightsbridge is a Mecca for supercar fans, especially those who aspire to developed a petrolhead social media following, so I shouldn't have been surprised.
The open-top roof allows you to fully appreciation the sound made by the V10 engine but also lets you hear some of the remarks being made about you behind the wheel
Imagine using this as your daily driver? Ours came with the must-have kit: reversing camera, nose lift function, and satellite navigation
GoPros, SLRs, iPhones - the equipment used to capture the car in all its glory was diverse and impressive. As were the tactics, from sly no-look camera phone shots to cyclists stopping the traffic ahead to get the best pictures.
The next day I even witnessed a driver on the A1 remove both hands from the wheel to snap me overtaking him on his mobile phone - certainly not recommended, or legal.
By the end of the 250-mile experience with the Huracán the last thing I wanted was for my picture to be taken. That's because my face wouldn't have been able to mask the discomfort I was in.
The low roof, tight pedal box, awkward driving position and harsher-than-average suspension had taken its toll on my body.
Fortunately, I managed to distract myself from the back pains with the incredible soundtrack produced by the 5.2-litre V10 mounted almost directly into your spine - it's sensational just at idle, let alone when you're rip-roaring along at pace.
And, while it might not be overly comfortable, it's barely more difficult to drive than a conventional car in and out of town.
Okay, you have to be more delicate in how you apply the power but adaptable modes mean you can have the steering calibrated light enough for you to turn the wheel with a pinky and the visibility is better than I'd imagined.
As far as soft-top supercars go, it ticked all the right boxes - it looks incredible and goes like stink. But could I use it every day like some YouTubers are suggesting? Probably not.
It's a beautiful place to be inside, but it does get uncomfortable on longer journeys
Practical it is not - the luggage compartment (left) is incredibly dinky. But even when you're exiting, the car still reminds you that you've made it by lasering a Lamborghini logo on the floor
FACTS & FIGURES: LAMBORGHINI HURACAN LP610-4 SPYDER
On sale: Now
Engine: V10, 5204cc, normally aspirated petrol
Power: 602bhp at 8250rpm
Torque: 413lb ft at 6500rpm
Gearbox: 7-spd twin-clutch auto
Top speed: 201mph
CO2/tax band: 285g/km
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