Hubert Burda Media

Fish Skin for your Dashboard, Sir?

It's no longer horsepower that trounces the competition, but whether or not you have monogrammed headrests or a custom-paint job

Fish Skin for your Dashboard, Sir?

Question: why splash out on a new Ferrari F12 when your neighbour has exactly the same one?
The solution? Personalise it to your individual tastes and preferences — a trend rapidly growing in Singapore and across Asia. In fact, Rolls-Royce has sold more bespoke Phantoms here than anywhere else in the world. Favourite options among buyers include monogrammed headrests, signatures emblazoned on glove boxes and gold versions of the Spirit of Ecstasy (the flying lady statue on the bonnet).
Hal Serudin, Asia-Pacific corporate communications manager for Rolls-Royce, said: “When it comes to the very wealthy, designing your own car comes naturally after shoes, kitchen and a yacht. One female customer asked for her car to be painted the same colour as her nail varnish, highlighting how cars can be an extension of fashion for the ultra-wealthy.”
At Italian supercar-maker Ferrari, it's a similar story with customers wanting to choose colours outside of its mainstream range. Ital Auto, Ferrari's exclusive Singapore dealership, even added a plush lounge in its new showroom to allow buyers to choose their bespoke cars in comfort. “Owners like to express their individuality in their cars and Ferrari is best placed amongst virtually all the ultra-high-end manufacturers to deliver this,” said Nick Syn, sales director at Ital Auto.
One of the popular bespoke touches among Ferrari drivers are commemorative plaques inside the car, a trend it shares with Aston Martin. The British sports car manufacturer says bespoke cars are part of its long and rich heritage. Sill plaques with the owners' names or initials on them are becoming popular in Asia, according to Nina Lim, who heads up marketing and sales in Singapore. “Bespoke services will play a big part in a brand's marketing strategy to gain customers' attention and market share,” she adds.
As the number of UHNWs and millionaires grow across the region, so too do the lengths they will go to express their individuality and advertise their wealth. A Rolls-Royce customer from India wanted each of his family members' initials stitched onto their own headrests along with their family crest, a sign that cars are also viewed as family heirlooms. One of the more bizarre requests included a Japanese buyer who wanted to lie down in his car, so he was measured from head to toe to make sure he would fit inside.
BMW-owned Rolls-Royce is also seeing a healthy market in China where commissions are up 103 percent year-on-year. This trend is likely to continue with the launch of the Majestic Horse Collection, a limited number of bespoke Rolls-Royce Ghosts that coincides with the Year of the Horse.
At luxury German marque Audi, it now extends its customisation services — called Audi Exclusive — across all of its models. Its racy sports car, the R8, is the most popular model to have the bespoke treatment. Prestige car brands across the region expect this trend to continue as sales increase.
Over at BMW, customers are offered Individual, a bespoke service that can count fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld as a client. Lagerfeld had very specific requirements for his 7 series model, personally overseeing the special paintwork and interior. His unusual functional requirements were also taken into account, such as a tissue dispenser integrated into the door storage compartment, a fax machine and extra cushion pillows to name but a few. Closer to home, BMW was proud to be of service to one Asian fish farm owner who wanted fish skin to be incorporated into the dashboard trim. In Asia, BMW's biggest markets for Individual are China and Japan.
At luxury car rival Mercedes-Benz, buyers who want to customise their cars have the choice of engine, paint and rims along with interior features. This can be done via a configurator application on its website. It occasionally receives bespoke orders beyond its standard options list from customers wanting to inject a dose of individuality and higher performance.
Wolfgang Huppenbauer, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Singapore, said: “This includes special requests, such as unique colour combinations or paintwork and special leather-stitching to name a few examples. However, such requests remain fairly uncommon here.”
Another German premium brand, Porsche, also has a car configurator allowing you to build your own car by experimenting with different models, engines, colours and other options. But many wouldn't classify it as a true bespoke service as a list of options is widely available to other buyers. For bona fide bespoke servicing, this is normally the realm of extreme sports cars and top-end luxury vehicles, such as Rolls-Royce and Bentley.
At Ferrari, you can actually design your own car from scratch, with the only constraint being the chassis. It's even possible to design your own body but, of course, this comes at a huge cost. The Sultan of Brunei is rumoured to be one of the few Asian customers to completely design his own Ferrari from start to finish.
Giuseppe Cattaneo, managing director for Ferrari Far East Hub, said: “The level of bespoke is without limit. The grade of bespoke can go from zero to your own unique Ferrari designed by you.”
Another way to stand out from the crowd on the roads is to buy a limited edition model. Not only will you be driving one of only a handful of models produced, limited edition cars rise in value more than any other type. Last year, Porsche made 50 special edition 911 cars to mark the 50th anniversary of the iconic sports car and will bring out a one-of-a-kind Singapore edition of the model this May, which will feature the Merlion on the footplate of the cabin. Are you the lucky owner?