Following his ill-fated efforts to save Saab, Victor Muller is again back at Spyker Cars as CEO working hard on a comeback for the Dutch-based maker of exotic cars.
Muller believes there's room for small, boutique exotics like Spyker.
You could say he's a dreamer, but having established Spyker as a credible player in the ultra-exclusive exotic car niche and tempered by his experience at Saab, Muller is also a realist about both the capital requirements and the complexities in building automobiles. As volumes grow, the chance increases that even the littlest mistake can derail the whole enterprise.
Muller believes there's room for small, boutique exotics like Spyker, Pagani and Koenigsegg in a market saturated by supercars from players like Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, VW Group's Bugatti and even Lexus with its LF-A.
He's not only looking to continue carving out this niche by continuing sales of his $200,000-plus C8 Aileron, but also expanding by offering the lower cost mid-engine 375-hp V6-powered B6 Venator, a concept of which was recently shown at the Geneva Motor Show. That car is expected to retail for $125,000 to $150,000 and Muller says he is in negotiations with an engine supplier for both that car and the C8. Also planned is a high-end SUV similar to the D12 Peking-to-Paris concept shown in 2006 (which paid homage to Spyker's participation in that 1907 race). For Muller, having two cars and one SUV is the right balance.
For Muller, having two cars and one SUV is the right balance.
Muller believes that making these vehicles successful is as much about having a compelling narrative that's told not only in the history of the vehicle, but with a design that reinforces that heritage. That's why all of Spyker's cars, a brand Muller revived in 1999, play off the early history of the company. Spyker was started in 1880, building carriages and expanding into luxury cars at the turn of the century. During World War I, Spyker built both airplanes and aero engines, returning to car manufacturing afterward to go out of business in 1926.
Using engines from Audi, Muller designed the reborn Spyker to incorporate as much aeronautical imagery as possible – from the propeller-festooned badging to aircraft-inspired interiors. While performance is important and the C8 is a credible player in this segment, what is more important to Muller and the buyers of the car is the story it tells. "It gives you an opportunity to tell people why it is what it is," Muller explains.
More important to Muller than performance is the story the car tells.
That's also why the B6 Venator, which is Latin for "hunter," recalls an original Spyker World War I era fighter, also known as the Hunter.
Exclusivity and an interesting story to tell about the car are more important to Muller than flat-out performance. And if you look at the supercar market, the cars with most cachet, like the Ferrari LaFerrari, Lamborghini Veneno and the Bugatti Veyron back up their performance with a rich heritage. And that's why it may take years before a Lexus can break through into these ranks – for as amazing as the LF-A is as a car, it says little about the brand if it remains a one-off exercise.
That doesn't mean a credible exotic needs an obscure nameplate from the past to be successful, according to Muller, who points to Horatio Pagani as an example. His motorsport background brings credibility to his effort and is evident in the racecar technology, such as the extensive use of carbon fiber and active aerodynamics he uses to build his cars. But more importantly, he has delivered a car that, despite relying on Mercedes AMG power, is unlike anything else on the road today. Furthermore, his business plan seems to be more rooted in how few can he make and still make money rather than how many the market will bear. The bottom line is make it fast, make it unique, but above all, have something interesting to say about the product.
Make it fast, make it unique, but above all, have something interesting to say about the product.