Climate change, cities limiting access for cars, the banning of combustion engines and plans for autonomous vehicles; with all this going on, is there a future for the supercar or are they facing extinction?
It’s a question that is on the minds of executives at Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren and others. Sales are booming for these brands, but for how long? The pandemic definitely made the wealthy decide to spend it now while they can, creating a boom period for supercar makers. The prospect of bans on combustion engines is also having an affect, with many choosing to enjoy the theatre of a V8 or V12 now while they still can.
The supercar makers are cashing in on the SUV trend too with models like the Ferrari Purosangue and Lamborghini Urus, and if rumours are correct then McLaren is not too far behind with its offering. Making an SUV a plug-in hybrid is relatively easy and deals with many of the changes happening, but what about supercars?
Traditionally, a supercar needs to be lightweight, which is something that generally doesn’t match up with switching to electric. Batteries are heavy and while an electric family hatchback can conserve battery power during daily use, there’s little point in a supercar that runs out of power after one spirited run.
Electric performance has already been proven to work, though. Lotus has its Evija and Rimac has been enjoying such great success that Porsche bought into it and turned it into Bugatti-Rimac. Even these were left in the dust of the incredible McMurtry Spéirling electric hypercar in 2022. Electric supercars have even faster acceleration than their petrol counterparts thanks to the instantaneous torque of the electric motors, and let’s face it most owners have a few other cars to cope with their commute or long-distance drives.
Ferrari plans to reveal its first fully electric model after 2025, Lamborghini will follow with its solution in 2028. But, even then, both companies expect sales of electric models to account for only less than half their volume in 2030. Also, neither company has said that its first full electric vehicles (EV) will be a supercar.
Plug-in hybrids are proving a good interim solution, using electric in cities and switching to the emotion of an engine once an owner passes the city boundary. Ferrari used the technology in its SF90 Stradale hypercar and will use it in other models. The new Lamborghini Revuelto might have a V12, but it also has three electric motors and a little bit of electric-only driving range.
In recent years all these brands have been undergoing something of a repositioning. Aston Martin has always produced great GT cars, but Ferrari has the Portofino and Roma, Lamborghini is working on a four-seater grand tourer and who can forget the Koenigsegg Gemera four-seater supercar. Diversification has been a key topic for those in the business of performance, and it’s likely that we will see even more of this over the next decade.
That could be driven by legislation or buyer demands. Will owners want to drive through streets between autonomous shuttles or ride-hailing cabs? Will they switch instead to the luxury of their own bespoke pod to take them to the office, opting perhaps to use a classic car on the weekends. What if Ferrari made a pod? Next thing we’ll see the return of the Aston Martin Cygnet or a VW Up engineered by Porsche and wearing its badge. OK, that’s taking things too far.
But wait, what about e-fuels? In theory these could mean very little change to the status quo at all. If governments accept e-fuels as carbon neutral then Franschhoek Pass could continue to echo to the sound of a new V12 being driven in earnest for decades to come.
The fact is that major changes are on the way for both the luxury and performance carmakers. It’s all a bit uncertain which way things will go. In the meantime, the fact that we have cars like the beautiful T.33 created by South African Gordon Murray means that the supercar as we know it is thriving and, for now at least, we think that’s a good thing.