Are Handcrafted Luxury Cars Really Better? 

The Lamborghini Veneno is one of the world's most expensive handcrafted luxury cars.
The Lamborghini Veneno one of the world's most expensive handcrafted luxury cars.

Around the world, many of the most celebrated and respected automotive brands have shunned mass production in favor of a more personalized and bespoke approach. They believe that by offering customers handcrafted luxury cars they can ensure the extremely high metrics of quality their brands are known for.

To the designers, engineers, and technicians who bring these cars to life, they are not simply the result of cold and calculated statistical analysis, but instead something closer to a museum-grade masterpiece, or certified work of art. Instead of allowing their creations to be average, they dare them to be extraordinary.

A quick review of the most expensive cars in the world reveals a surprising trend: each and every one was produced by an automotive manufacturer dedicated to building their cars by hand.

The World’s Most Expensive Cars were all Handcrafted

  1. Lamborghini Veneno: $3.9 Million

  2. Bugatti Veyron Super Sports: $2.4 Million

  3. Pagani Zonda Cinque Roadster: $2 Million

  4. Aston Martin One-77: $1.5 Million

  5. Lamborghini Reventon: $1.6 Million

  6. Maybach Landaulet: $1.4 Million

  7. Zenvo ST1: $1.25 Million

  8. McLaren F1: $900,000

9. Ferrari Enzo: $700,000

10. Pagani Zonda C12 F: $650,000

While being the most expensive is not always synonymous with being the best, any dedicated automobile fanatic would be hard-pressed to take a look at that list and not find something to admire.

Among the cars on that list are exceptionally forward-facing design concepts that excite the senses and challenge what it means to be a car. There are also performance metrics which the world has never seen before.

As Jeremy Clarkson of Top Speed puts it:

“[A Bugatti Veyron is] quite the most stunning piece of automotive engineering ever created….At a stroke then, the Veyron has rendered everything I’ve ever said about any other car obsolete. It’s rewritten the rule book, moved the goalposts and in the process, given Mother Nature a bloody nose.”

That’s quite an endorsement, but it should come as no surprise considering the Bugatti Veyron, with a top speed of 267 mph, 0-60 time under 2.5 seconds, and more than 1,200 HP is a complete game changer.

Why are handcrafted luxury automobiles so expensive?

Manufacturing Tolerance vs. Quality Assurance

One of the key metrics of global automotive production is known as manufacturing tolerance. This means that for every variable of the production process, the length of a piece of steel, or the size of a hole, there is a range that is considered optimal. Products that are mass produced have a much larger manufacturing tolerance when compared to tailor made or handcrafted items.

A master automotive technician at Bentley Motors Limited, a well-known luxury brand famous for producing handcrafted luxury cars will not accept that a hole he or she drilled is slightly smaller or larger than expected. Bentley prides itself on the quality of its cars and as a result, will only accept when things are executed absolutely perfectly.

Bentley relies on quality assurance to ensure that each of its cars meets the extremely lofty expectations set forth by the brand. Because brands like Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini and others focus on quality assurance instead of easing their manufacturing tolerance, the prices of their cars tend to climb.

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Showcasing an urban landscape. @mark_scenemedia captured Phantom in a fashion befitting of its spirit; disruptive, imperious and unapologetically contemporary. #Phantom #RollsRoyce CO2 emission: 329-328 g/km ; Fuel consumption: 19.5-19.6 mpg / 14.5-14.4 l/100km The values of fuel consumptions, CO2 emissions and energy consumptions shown are determined according to the European Regulation (EC) 715/2007 in the version applicable at the time of type approval. The range shown considers optional equipment and the different size of wheels and tires available on the selected model and may vary during the configuration. The values are already based on the new WLTP regulation and are translated back into NEDC-equivalent values in order to ensure the comparison between the vehicles. For the assessment of taxes or other duties based (at least inter alia) on CO2-emissions the CO2 values may differ to the values stated here. Further information on official energy and fuel consumption and the official specific CO2 emissions of new passenger cars can be found in the “Guide to Fuel Consumption, CO2 Emissions and Electricity Consumption of New Passenger Cars”, which is available at all outlets free of charge and at in the United Kingdom, in Germany, or your local government authority.

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Additionally, because handcrafted luxury automakers produce and sell a much lower volume of cars each year when compared to the mainstream, populist, mass produced cars, there is increased incentive for them to increase the profits they make off each car.

In 2014, Rolls Royce produced only around 4,000 cars.

In 2014, Toyota produced 12,000 cars a day in its Japanese production facilities alone. In that same year, Toyota produced more than 10 million cars in all of its international production facilities.

Toyota and Rolls Royce appeal to different customers and have achieved success for very different reasons. Nonetheless, it is easy to imagine given the economies of scale, why it is essential for Rolls Royce’s handcrafted luxury product to be priced several orders of magnitude higher than Toyota’s.

The Stagnation of Automation

Automation of complex mechanical processes has been a hallmark of the global automotive industry since the creation of Henry Ford’s flagship Model T in 1908. At that time, Ford’s company was the first to unlock the secrets of mass production. It had created an innovative approach to automotive construction hinging on moving assembly lines and cars with interchangeable parts.

What was first an optimized process which required human intervention eventually gave way to industrial robots capable of moving faster and more accurately than even the most skilled human laborers. Robotic process automation (RPA) is the way modern car companies like Volkswagen, Ford, and Nissan reach their production targets.

In 2018, Volkswagen’s largest production facility in Wolfsburg, Germany was able to produce 3,500 Golfs and Tiguans a day. That accounts to 2 cars produced each minute, for the entire year, without stopping at all. This is of course much easier thanks to the increased use of robotic process automation.

Robots do not feel stress or hunger. They do not require days off and they are happy to work non-stop around the clock as was the case in Wolfsburg. It’s easy to see why so many of the world’s largest automotive manufacturers are head over heels about the potential for automation to streamline their profits at the expense of the human capital that helped to bring their brands so far.

According to Ravnit Kohli, Managing Director at automation provider Synechron:

“Robotics is a surging, multi-billion-dollar market because it provides businesses incredible savings and efficiencies [with] robotic process automation for consumer and business applications, which are expected to become an $8.7 billion market by 2024.”

Do Robots Build Better Cars?

Nearly all automotive production facilities today look very similar. You will find automated processes in all of them. Investments in robotics and other advanced systems have been a priority for all the world’s top automakers, both large and small, pedestrian and luxury.

While advanced technology and automotive production are likely to be linked deep into the future, there is something special about the promise of a one of a kind, work of art sitting parked in your driveway.

Robots build wonderful cars, but without human experts to program them and provide quality assurance, none of it would be possible. Some of the world’s most exciting vehicles are handcrafted luxury cars and it’s easy to admire the human ingenuity and spirit of discovery behind them.

Sources: Medium, Success Story, Wired