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Thread: Boutique Car Manufacturers should do- opinions?

  1. #1
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    Boutique Car Manufacturers should do- opinions?

    Like most of us, I study the boutique car market. Noble (M12/M400)has or was one of the most successful boutique markets are far as "sales", IMO. With over 1000 sold world wide, that's quite a bit for a car designed in a barn. Lotus is, again, IMO, has their financial struggles, but still able to survive and have a dealer network all over the U.K. And U.S. Although they have withdrawn from F1; largely due to financials, as a boutique manufacturer of "kitish" cars they are at the pinnacle of where other "boutique" manufacturers are trying or would like to scale.

    Lotus supports people that support them- plain and simple. When we started racing in Lotus Cup and they saw how many Lotus cars we service, the exclusive U.S. Lotus Cup promoter allows TH to legally use the Lotus Cup trade mark in all of our advertising, shirts etc.........it's really great that the manufacture recognizes our efforts and each day we have inquiries which turn to potential sales of their Evora, Cup Cars, race rentals and the Noble also becomes a viable option if it were available.

    Most of us are very familiar with HPDE and showing up at the track you all know the attention you get. It all helps to promote the brand past blogging on the Internet and joining forums where we all know what a Noble is already. It's the OTHER 99% of people that we need to reach out to at this point and time. I pulled back on marketing to the owners since I know most of them and we as a community need help from the Noble Automotive and Rossion, if you want them to survive, especially those that will promote their brand.

    Maybe it's just me and a rant, but I'd like to hear other people thoughts-

    This was delivered to us from Lotus Cup personally the other day.

    image.jpg
    SCCA National Runoffs GT-1 Bronze Medal
    SCCA GT-1 Divisional Champion

    Noble Automotive USA (TurboHoses Company)

    Noble M12/M400
    Hoover@nobleautomotive.com
    925 -455-1066

  2. #2
    I love this subject!
    I have thought about this for years.

    As a Porsche owner, what I consider a boutique manufacture in the 50ís that successfully transitioned to much more, a former Lotus Elise owner (still miss that car), a classical British boutique manufacture (always on the edge of bankruptcy), and a current Noble owner , this is a subject near and dear to me.

    I will try to keep this (relatively) short, but if you are ever in Denver (we have the Shelby America Collection in Boulder, and Auto-Archives which has the largest Lotus literature collection in the world (WWW.AUTO-ARCHIVES.ORG), multiple Noble/Rossian owners), I would love to share dinner and ideas.

    My thoughts on history:

    Ferrari and Porsche have achieved success as a boutique manufactures via two different paths.

    Ferrari is now a successful limited production auto manufacture that excels not only at the sharp end of automotive technology, (but more profitable to them), selling a lifestyle!
    Ferrari produces thousands (5K-7K annually) of cars a year, but makes more annual revenue off of licensed swag. Utterly brilliant. I would have never thought of that path on my own! (Dany Bahar tried this with Lotus, but found out itís not something you canít do overnight).

    Porsche is now a successful auto manufacture, and in my mind the model of how to transition from a boutique to a manufacture. In the 50ís they produced the 356 to pay the bills to develop the 550 for racing, firmly believing in "Win On Sunday, Sell (and improve the DNA) on Monday!" Porsche's sold just over 1200 Boxters and Caymanís in Q1 2016. This is a number that I suspect Lotus would be thrilled if they matched annually in the US currently!

    And this is my issue with Lotus. (And for me it not a question of if I will own another Lotus, but what Lotus will I own next).

    We all know, Lotus fights way above its weight (no pun intended). The Elise steering feel is magical. I would/will be thrilled if I can get my M12 to match that feel, but I fear that with power steering, it will never happen. But, its not a 911 competitor.

    The Evora is a move in the right direction (for the mass market), but it is not a 911 competitor either.

    If I ran Lotus, I would buy a Boxter and a Cayman and then hold a design/engineering meeting with a clearly defined directive: ďLotus family, here is our competition. How can we match or exceed it in each category (Price, Style, Performance, Interior, (and importantly in our Cup Holder generation) daily usability!) ď

    Lotus need to take sales not from Porsche, but from the Boxter/Cayman! After Lotus raises their game to build an all-around car as good as the B/C, then build a new model, and aim for the 911 (or, cringe, the SUV market to help finance the sports car market).

    And as Design/Engineering are working on this, the Marketing dept. need to build a brand identity that makes Middle School boys want a poster of one on their wall and/or has them draw this car in their notebook during that boring Middle Ages history class!

    The Noble issue is even more tricky.

    What box do we want the Noble to fit in.

    Track car that you can use on the street (Arial Atom/GT3RS)? Street car that you can use as a track day car (GT4, Z06)? Usable Sports Car that can be daily driven and is entertaining on the track (Boxter S/Cayman S/Mustang GT)

    Then the tricky/ugly gorilla in the room.

    Sales number per category

    Track car that you can use on the street. Maybe hundreds a year. Most are purchased with disposable income. A car you want, not need.
    Street car you can use as a track day car. Maybe multi-hundreds a year. Second or third car, owner probably has a good 401k.
    Usable Sports Car that can be daily driven and is entertaining on the track. Thousands a year. Easy to justify if the spouse has an SUV (and if I squint, the base model Cayman looks very similar to that car I saw racing on TV at Le Mans).

    I feel the one of keyís to a happy life as a manufacture is how to sell the customer not one car, but a path to multiple cars.

    GM is SURE that every customer that buys a base Camaro will eventually trade that Camaro for an SS Camaro then a Corvette and that for a newer Corvette Z06.

    Porsche sees the same with the Boxter/Caymen. -> B/C S -> B/C GTS -> 911 -> 911 TT -> 918 -> Le Mans

    Elise -> Evora (dangerously short repeat sales path)

    Noble M12 -> M400 -> HVR (Still a dangerously short repeat sales path)

    I could go on and on, and have probably gone on too long.

    Looking forward to this thread.

  3. #3
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    Doug... Thanks for the reply. Going to head out for dinner and read through. Again, thanks for taking the time. Together we can make a difference.

    image.jpg

    Our Lotus Race Car on the front cover of SCCA Wheel Magazine!!!!!
    SCCA National Runoffs GT-1 Bronze Medal
    SCCA GT-1 Divisional Champion

    Noble Automotive USA (TurboHoses Company)

    Noble M12/M400
    Hoover@nobleautomotive.com
    925 -455-1066

  4. #4
    Boy, this could go anywhere. I guess my 2 cents that I can throw in is that it depends on what your end goals are. At the end of the day, the desired size of your market will drive what features go into or don't make it into your performance car. Also, are you satisfied with being a boutique manufacturer or do you want to grow bigger? Obviously the plus is more money, but to me, the ideal balance is a large enough following to sell a few hundred cars a year (in this target market), be able to support your consumers long term - so that isn't a concern when they buy - and not be on the verge of financial collapse every year.

    If your goal is to build a huge auto company, such as Chevy or Ford then the idea of a sports car/pony car that appeals to a lot of folks and gives you a chance to highlight your capabilities so they come in to buy the cars they NEED, as Doug aptly put it, then you need something that appeals to the thousands of folks. What does this mean? In the US, this means that straightline performance is much more important than the performance in the twisty bits. How many of us have been in low HP cars at a track day and catch people in the corners and then they get to the passing zone on the straightaways and shove their foot to the floor and pull away. The best example I ever had of that was when I once instructed a guy with a Hellcat (700 HP Dodge Challenger) where they put a big digital dash right in the center. He was so transfixed on seeing what the number was at the end of the straightaway he could have cared less about really learning the lines. He kind of saw the track as a couple of dragstrips connected by corners that got in the way of his right foot. The models that support this type of thing are the Camaro, Mustang, GT-R, Corvette (although this has long had a combination of this with the next category I will talk about).

    Then there is the somewhat smaller group of folks who appreciate handling, braking, power, and interior appointments in a balanced package but are willing to sacrifice some form of space and utility to achieve these goals. They will most likely be the folks that will buy the Boxsters, Caymans, etc. Those that can get past what I call "European Snobbery" also will buy Corvettes in this category.

    However, some people find them too low on some part of the performance spectrum and are willing to sacrifice more comforts for lower weight and/or better performance - this is where the Lotus, Noble, etc. come in.

    The other way to go with a bottomless pocketbook is to pay for the 250k+ supercar to achieve this higher level of performance with less sacrifice. Although I have never been on a road course with one of these cars and failed to pass it no matter what car I was driving - because nobody wants to wreck their 250k plus car

    I guess I can only comment on why I bought the Rossion as I looked across all possibilities for 70k or less. I know to some on this forum this may not be a lot of money, but to me it is, and the only reason I ever spent it on this car is because I have wanted one ever since I saw a Noble in 2005 at an auto show.

    So I stepped back and looked at all the different cars I could buy for 70k and chose this one. The others either didn't have enough performance, were too hard to work on myself, were not safe enough for me to drive on the track as a hobby, or weren't street worthy at all. When a car fills such a unique slot, your market, by definition, is going to be small. Even I had misgivings since I have to now figure out how to get my stuff to the track since there is NO storage. At the end of the day, I determined I would solve that problem somehow as 3 solutions are available to me.

    Over the years I have owned cars in all 3 of the above categories and have loved every one of them. However, if I were forced to choose one car, the car I NEED, I wouldn't choose any of these, it would be my Audi S4 that I have had for about 8 years.

    Boy, have I gotten off track. Sorry about that. This was all just to say that I don't think a car with low volume production is ever going to thrive without the "self promotion." I will give rides to anybody who wants in my Rossion - once I pick it up this week - and will drive it often, because I feel like that is the best advertising the car can get. Quite frankly, spending a little bit on advertising would probably help them a TON. Meanwhile, I think it is up to us owners to do it, as it would be with most of the smaller Kit car type builds. For instance, whenever somebody asks me what kind of car I am picking up, etc. I always tell them to google it and they are usually very impressed just from the pictures

  5. #5
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    BTW, I am a bit bothered by the fact that I must have bought my 2016 Shelby GT350 Track Pack for the local Stoplight challenge. Never mind that after 25 years of road racing that maybe I might just be waiting for the first Porshe Club event to go out and prove the track prowess this car possesses. Is it that difficult to believe that perhaps a Big Three Corporation can finally build a more than competent track car. Remember much of the DNA of the Noble/Rossion evolved from the Ford Mondeo. Anyway, I just wanted an affordable and fun car to spank the stuffy euro boys until my Noble M12 GTO3R is completed at TH.
    2004 Noble M12 GTO3R (NUS0031), Platinum Silver (Currently at TurboHoses getting the Ultimate Hooverization)
    2016 Shelby GT350 #433, Track Pack, Deep Impact Blue, Black Stripes
    2013 Mustang BOSS 302 Laguna Seca #264, School Bus Yellow
    2009 MB C63 AMG Tuned
    Lola B2K/40-Nissan, 2001 Rolex 24 SRPII Class Winner, 2000/2001 Grand Am SRPII Class Champions
    Lola T87/90 S2000 SCCA National Champion 2000
    Lola T250, T252, T324; Caldwell D10

  6. #6
    No doubt Ford has done their homework with this one. It truly is an amazing car, for sure. Closest I have ever come to buying a Mustang, other than an old Fox Body LX 5.0 back in my high school days. My only quibble would be with the word affordable given the 3500 lb weight and $1,700 for a set of street rubber - that will get a little spendy at the track The ever increasing rim diameter battle has just continued to drive the price of tracking often way up with not a whole lot of benefit. I guess everybody draws the line at a different place on the definition of affordable.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by calvinlc View Post
    No doubt Ford has done their homework with this one. It truly is an amazing car, for sure. Closest I have ever come to buying a Mustang, other than an old Fox Body LX 5.0 back in my high school days. My only quibble would be with the word affordable given the 3500 lb weight and $1,700 for a set of street rubber - that will get a little spendy at the track The ever increasing rim diameter battle has just continued to drive the price of tracking often way up with not a whole lot of benefit. I guess everybody draws the line at a different place on the definition of affordable.
    The Miata is very affordable. It's fun too......
    SCCA National Runoffs GT-1 Bronze Medal
    SCCA GT-1 Divisional Champion

    Noble Automotive USA (TurboHoses Company)

    Noble M12/M400
    Hoover@nobleautomotive.com
    925 -455-1066

  8. #8
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    I could really be foolish and spend two to three times the amount for a car with similar or less performance with the same, probably more, tires/brakes/maintenance costs and that would not be cost effective from my point of view.............hey but I guess it's all about the status of having certain branded vehicles. I get a bang out of putting those types to shame, driver skill versus bull**t, especially in the rain...................

    Quote Originally Posted by calvinlc View Post
    No doubt Ford has done their homework with this one. It truly is an amazing car, for sure. Closest I have ever come to buying a Mustang, other than an old Fox Body LX 5.0 back in my high school days. My only quibble would be with the word affordable given the 3500 lb weight and $1,700 for a set of street rubber - that will get a little spendy at the track The ever increasing rim diameter battle has just continued to drive the price of tracking often way up with not a whole lot of benefit. I guess everybody draws the line at a different place on the definition of affordable.
    Last edited by FASTLAP; 04-16-16 at 08:32 PM.
    2004 Noble M12 GTO3R (NUS0031), Platinum Silver (Currently at TurboHoses getting the Ultimate Hooverization)
    2016 Shelby GT350 #433, Track Pack, Deep Impact Blue, Black Stripes
    2013 Mustang BOSS 302 Laguna Seca #264, School Bus Yellow
    2009 MB C63 AMG Tuned
    Lola B2K/40-Nissan, 2001 Rolex 24 SRPII Class Winner, 2000/2001 Grand Am SRPII Class Champions
    Lola T87/90 S2000 SCCA National Champion 2000
    Lola T250, T252, T324; Caldwell D10

  9. #9
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    Lee Noble found a void in the market back in 2003- a super car that a normal person can aspire to. For the most part he did it. He then completed the Noble M15 and secured 75 orders at the Geneva Auto Convention. After, the M14 was designed which is not the M600. When Lee started Fenix Automotive (that car was also fully completed), like most boutique car companies, struggled financially. Too bad, there was a LOT of excitement with Lee's new design after Noble Automotive.

    I've continually promoted Noble Automotive in hopes that they do bring the M600 state-side (I had a few inquiries throughout the years). They seem to be selling overseas to one or two dealers, but not understanding that there is a small market in the U.S., which I've tried to guide them. I'm certain that we could have sold a small amount of their brand.


    There seems to be a market for any and all type of enthusiasts. It's a matter of where you find yourself in the market and seek that vehicle that fits your criteria. I've spend much of my time learning from other people's mistakes. The root problem is always financials and that reality affects even the larger companies to date.

    I think my next step would be to visit Lotus Automotive and see how they work as a mfg...... I order Lotus parts every single day and owners understand the wait for specialty parts.....

    What's next?
    SCCA National Runoffs GT-1 Bronze Medal
    SCCA GT-1 Divisional Champion

    Noble Automotive USA (TurboHoses Company)

    Noble M12/M400
    Hoover@nobleautomotive.com
    925 -455-1066

  10. #10
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    It's difficult to compare a small/boutique/niche/kitish car brand to the big boys. I've seen them all have financial difficulties whether large or small. I spoke to the owner of Ariel Atom and their sales are about 4 units per month. In order to cash flow, they use their machinery to manufacture for other industries. They employ about 20+ employees which is more than Noble, Rossion & Ultima GTR combined. Even as simple as the Ariel can be, not all parts can done in-house.
    The Ariel and cars alike fall into a the "toy" category- Some people will use this as their single toy and others have a collection in their custom garage. The Noble when it first sold in the U.S. Catered to most with a second or third car and wanted something that had unique styling and performance- the Noble filled that market easily. Rossion sales after the Noble was pretty good, just the financial portion was difficult, understandably.

    The Noble is a great price for performance and the demographic has changed like any other model when the vehicle gets older. However, the other 99% still don't know what a Noble is even after Top Gear and all that promotion we've done for 10 years. At minimum this brand has a racing foot print in the U.S., and although small, it's something that gives it a small edge.
    SCCA National Runoffs GT-1 Bronze Medal
    SCCA GT-1 Divisional Champion

    Noble Automotive USA (TurboHoses Company)

    Noble M12/M400
    Hoover@nobleautomotive.com
    925 -455-1066

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