ANDREW HARRER / BLOOMBERG
The Ford 2017 GT on display at the 2016 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit in January.
Selling a six-figure supercar is a lot like parallel parking a six-figure supercar: both require a deft touch and a little bit of luck.
By design, production for these machines never meets demand, so there is almost always a surplus of would-be buyers. The carbon-veined cars are essentially marketing exercises: howling 320-km/h billboards, so Ford doesn’t want them going to just anyone.
That’s why the company began taking applications online Wednesday morning to buy its 2017 GT supercar. That’s right, the process of plunking down US$400,000 on a Ford is not unlike applying for a barista job at Starbucks.
There are significantly more open positions at Starbucks, however, than there ever will be Ford GTs. The company, which pulled the cover off the car in 2015, expects to make just 300 over the next two years.
It’s difficult to overstate how excited car enthusiasts are about this machine. Ford rarely makes a bona fide racecar. When it does, the company resurrects the GT moniker from its brightest moment: when it pledged to beat Ferrari at Le Mans in the 1960s and promptly did just that — four years in a row.
Ferrari, which makes about 7,000 cars a year, has the industry’s most notorious and arcane screening system. The company and its dealers essentially maintain a system of rolling waiting lists. Preference is given to those who already own one of its cars or at least belong to a Ferrari club. Interested drivers are often encouraged to buy a used Ferrari before getting a crack at a new one. Flipping a vehicle gets you blacklisted for life.
As in any thoroughbred business, net worth is merely a prerequisite for Ferrari ownership: commitment and decorum are the only true considerations.
Ford’s application, however, is refreshingly different. It appears to give priority to Ford fans, specifically those who excel at social media. Early on, the document asks if the applicant owns a Ford, uses Ford vehicles in a business, or supports Ford-affiliated charities.
Then the company gets down to marketing. It prompts: “Briefly describe your role as a public influencer” and asks for online profiles, blog posts, videos and specifics on “your audience demographics.”
Ford goes a step further, prompting applicants to express why they would be “a good Ford GT owner” in a 60-second video posted on a public-facing site such as YouTube or Vimeo.
Neither age nor income is mentioned. While Ferrari’s system is blue-blood, Ford’s is almost blue-collar. It’s for the Mad Max fans, not the Maranello faithful. In other words, it’s tuned for people who might buy a more pedestrian Ford, a regular car with far less than 600 horsepower. After all, that’s the whole point of making something like the GT.
And of course, the whole application exercise is pumping a pile of free content into Ford’s own marketing machine.
In the “terms and conditions” fine print, the company notes applicants may be asked to participate in promotional activities.
In the text box left at the bottom for additional arguments, we made our final case for ownership: we pledged never to buy a Ferrari.
What happens if we win? We’ll settle for $450,000… from qualified buyers, of course.
— Bloomberg News