When Honda Canada announced earlier this year that it would sell “only” 100 units of the high-performance Civic Type R Limited Edition, the vehicle sold out in four minutes flat.
So why not sell 200 of them instead and make twice as much money?
“The purpose is more for PR, and for appeal – it’s a brand-builder,” says Hayato Mori, Honda Canada’s assistant vice-president for product planning and business development. “We don’t want to bring in too many. We want this to be exclusive.”
The “regular” Type R, which sells about 300 to 400 units a year in Canada, has a manufacturerʼs suggested price of $45,491, which is a hefty premium over the most basic $20,301 Civic sedan. The price of the Limited Edition is $54,600. Even so, the high-performance R model cost so much to develop and build that Honda claims it’s not a big money-maker.
“We make enough profit to keep it going, but not as much as other cars,” Mr. Mori says. “It brings out a different kind of crowd and has a halo effect on all our vehicles. Halo cars in general, they don’t make that much money. It’s not a cheap car, but the exclusivity keeps the value intact.”
When selling cars, “exclusivity” is the magic word. Every automaker knows there will always be a small but influential number of buyers who don’t mind paying a bit extra for something that’s different from the mainstream.
“If the model’s been around for a couple of years, it’s a great way to refresh it and make it special again, by changing some of the parts and making it unique and having a special colour,” says Anton Pawczuk, Subaru Canada’s senior director for product management.
“In Canada, we’ve had a bunch of special editions of WRX, STI and BRZ,” he says, mentioning Subaru’s three sportiest models. “We try to launch them in the spring, and we usually get a pretty good take rate. We only make 50 or 75, maybe 100 depending on the model, and they get scooped up pretty fast.”
The 2020 Subaru BRZ tS that was launched at the Toronto auto show in February has STI-tuned suspension and Brembo brakes, bronze-painted aluminum wheels and sticky 18-inch Michelin Pilot Sport tires. Its production run was co-ordinated with Subaru USA and limited to 50 for Canada.
The extra technology, as well as exclusive Ceramic White paint and tS badging, means the special edition sells for $33,795, which is a big jump over the $27,995 of the regular BRZ.
Once Subaru decides how many to build, that becomes a firm commitment, Pawczuk says.
“It’s built at the factory at a specific time. If we’re going to stop the line and just build this car, we have to do it in one shot and then it’s finished; we can’t do it again.”
Other “special” vehicles are little more than cosmetic. The “50th Anniversary” edition of the 2020 Nissan 370Z, for example, is mechanically identical to the regular coupe, but commands a $2,700 premium. Again, there are only 50 available for Canada, but they include a special silver-and-black or silver-and-red paint job with racing stripes, as well as special leather-and-suede heated seats, special badging and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
“People like to have something that’s a little bit different from what their neighbour might have,” says Steve Rhind, director of marketing for Nissan Canada.
“It ties into the fact that customers are willing to buy accessories. They want different wheels and they want to put other little things on their vehicle to make it a little bit different. When you come out with a package that’s already done for them, which looks a little different or has some better features they might not otherwise have had, it appeals to them.”
Performance vehicles are most likely to get the exclusive treatment. “It creates passion, and it’s passion that drives the brand,” says Peter Jansen, vehicle line director for Ford Motor Co. of Canada. “Ninety-five per cent of people don’t buy these buzz vehicles, but they create passion.”
Even so, there are sometimes exclusive editions of mainstream vehicles. In 2017, Nissan launched the Star Wars edition of its popular Rogue SUV. For an additional $2,850 over the mid-level SV trim, buyers got a special paint job based on black or white, some special stickers and badges and a non-wearable Death Trooper helmet that Nissan estimated would be worth $1,000 on eBay.
Only 400 were sold in Canada and 4,000 in the United States. “It worked really well for us,” Rhind says. “It appealed to a customer who was passionate about Star Wars. Oftentimes, we heard that their kids would see it in the showroom, and they really pushed mom and dad to get that vehicle because it looked really neat with all the logos.”
And the resale price? Do limited-edition vehicles retain their higher initial premium?
“On mainstream cars, it’s about the same,” Rhind says. “With the Rogues and that limited edition, we don’t know yet, but with sports cars, those do tend to hold their value very well.”
Fortunately, once you’ve spent the extra money for a limited-edition vehicle, there’s often another payoff, too.
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