Related: Automotive Chassis
Let’s say that you live in Germany, want an Audi, but have definite ideas of how you want the cabin trimmed and the exterior painted. You can take it to an aftermarket company, but you’d rather have something with factory backing. Welcome to Audi EXCLUSIVE, a customization program run through quattro GmbH, a wholly owned subsidiary of Audi. Located on the first floor of the Audi Forum at the company’s Neckarsulm assembly plant, the EXCLUSIVE studio lets customers come face-to-face with samples of the custom leather, wood, and paint that are available. “The 18 different leathers can be had in two surface finishes,” says Gareth Greif, spokesman for quattro GmbH. “The first type has fewer paint layers for a more natural feel, while the second has more paint layers for greater wear resistance.” (There are also 10 colors of Alcantara available if leather won’t do.) The wood trim also comes in different colors and finishes, with eight types available, all sourced from Canada and supplied by an Italian company.
Then there are the exterior colors. “A customer can choose from seven exclusive colors, or from 14,000 shades of these basic tones,” says Greif. “Almost any color choice is available, as long as it can be made to work with the plant’s water-soluble paint system.” And, he says, it’s not unusual for customers to ask for extra materials so they can create clothing or accessories that match their new car. It takes approximately 6 to 8 weeks for an individualized vehicle to move from order to delivery. However, it may take as many as 12 weeks for quattro GmbH to build one that strays from the factory colors and textures in its assembly area. Another product from this group is the RS4. It starts life as a normal A4, and is put into the quattro GmbH plant where it is painted, fitted with a high-output 4.2-liter V8, trimmed, and leaves as a product of quattro GmbH, not Audi.
While not every region can partake in the full customization scheme, bits and pieces are being rolled out. North American buyers can order quattro’s S-line package on most Audi models, or opt for an EXCLUSIVE interior on the A8. And while this program is expected to grow, there’s nothing quite like literally ordering your car from the factory, buying accessories and drinking espresso in the Audi Shop, or partaking of a five-star lunch at the 170-seat Nuvolari Restaurant while your personalized vehicle is prepped for delivery in the Audi Forum.
There are two levels of personalization at Ferrari: the Carrozzeria Scaglietti Personalization Program, and a “Special Equipment” program for items that are above and beyond that level. “These are items that are available from the factory, but are not part of the standard options package,” says Andrew Shaffer, manager, Product Management, Events & Sales Training at Ferrari North America. The Carrozzeria Scaglietti options list covers three areas: Exterior and Colors, Interior and Materials, and Equipment and Travel. “The first covers colors that are not in the range we offer, Scuderia Ferrari shields on the front fenders, and brake caliper colors,” says Shaffer. “Interior and Materials includes the upper and lower instrument panel colors, contrasting stitching colors, special finishes, heated seats, and Daytona-style stitching on the seats. Equipment and Travel covers navigation and sound systems.”
Ferrari owners also can order performance upgrades, including carbon-ceramic brake discs. On the mid-engined F430 this one option adds $16,808 to its approximately $206,000 base price. On the $264,000 612 Scaglietti–a name that denotes this model, not its option level–they come as part of a $27,000 Handling GTC package that also includes exhaust system, trim, software, and wheel and tire upgrades. Like the approximately 50 Carrozzeria Scaglietti options, these items do not further delay the vehicle’s delivery time. (Most Ferrari buyers wait an average of two years to take delivery of their cars.)
“We have people who had us polish the aluminum engine cradle, others who wanted it body color, and still others that wanted it painted a contrasting color,” says Shaffer. One customer wanted the convertible top on his car to match its exterior color, but Ferrari wasn’t about to do so without testing to see that it could withstand the same rigors as the standard-issue top, a delay that would have added four months to the delivery time. “We aren’t about to dye a top and send you on your way,” says Shaffer, “only to be disappointed when it doesn’t stand up to use. That’s just not the Ferrari way.”
Though 40% of the cars ordered worldwide are red, not all of the rest are painted in the next most popular colors of black, yellow, or silver. Many are done in school colors, others in past Ferrari colors, and an increasing number in unique hues chosen by the buyer. “If you provide a color sample,” says Shaffer, “we will match that and send you a panel in this color so you can decide if it’s what you really want.” And while Shaffer says there are things Ferrari won’t do, he’s never heard of a request so outrageous the factory turned it down. One reason may be, he says, that an increasing number of buyers are turning to design professionals for help in choosing their colors and textures. And Ferrari tracks these special orders and options by VIN so future owners will know exactly how the car came out of the factory.
“Most other automakers are concerned with reducing the number of option packages and stand-alones in order to reduce costs and make the production process more of a known, repeatable quantity,” says Shaffer. “We don’t believe that is the most important aspect of what we do. For us, it’s all about treating the customer as a member of the family.”