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The New Face of Luxury

High-end auto makers are reaching beyond rich leather and burlwood interiors to distinguish themselves. As posh down-market competitors press from below, choices like green engines, smaller vehicles and wifi are driving the luxury category
Paul A. Eisenstein
From the Print Edition:
Sylvester Stallone, July/August 2010

(continued from page 4)

Then there are the one-offs, like what Fleischer calls "the Kona car." One customer, who traded in exotic Hawaiian woods, provided the automaker with his own lush veneers, matching them with tropic pastel leathers. That 7-Series went for $130,000, the custom work accounting for about $30,000 of that.

If you have enough money, BMW will modify just about anything you can imagine, but be forewarned the price gets pretty steep when you start talking about something seemingly simple like seats or bodywork. That would be because the automaker has to comply with regulations whenever a customized vehicle is delivered. Even something as mundane as a new seat might require the company to conduct a crash test. And, for some work, that might require the use of an aftermarket tuner or customization.

But there are advantages to working with the factory, where possible. Among other things, you'll have the comfort of knowing the work carries a warrantee.

BMW is not the only automaker entering the custom space, of course. Mercedes-Benz has been gaining ground with its Designo division. And then there are the ultra-luxury brands, like Rolls-Royce and Bentley, where they'll even whip up a custom paint or leather shade to match your favorite tie or lipstick. Just be ready to sign the check.


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