Post and Courier
August 20, 2014

Six Figures: Super-luxury models rare in Charleston area, but dealerships still can land up to 40 new models priced at $100,000 or more

Posted: 08/31/2013 12:01 a.m.


By Jim Parker

You could visit a local car dealer to shop for a Maserati Gran Turismo priced at $142,800, but not an Aston Martin V-8 Vantage for $131,200.

If they’re on the lot or can be ordered, metro Charleston shoppers can drive home in an Audi R8 GT 5.2 FSI Quattro Spyder for $210,300, but wouldn’t be able to find a dealer with a new Bentley Continental GT for $174,000.

All in all, Lowcountry dealerships provide their share of super-luxury or ultra-high-performance vehicles. Local outlets are exclusive dealers for eight manufacturers that roll out cars priced at $100,000 or more. And the choices, at least on paper, are ample.

The eight carmakers account for 40 new models. According to base prices listed on Edmunds.com auto information company, Mercedes-Benz alone posts 15 models in six figures including three SUVs and two sedans. Other brands with ties to local dealerships and at least one $100,000-plus model are Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Jaguar, Lexus, Maserati and Porsche.

Yet metro Charleston still shows gaps in the extra high-end lineup. Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Aston Martin are noticeably absent.

The available six figure models fall into four categories: convertibles, coupes, sedans and SUVs. No manufacturer makes $100,000-plus trucks, minivans, wagons, hatchbacks or diesels.

The range of extra-luxurious and high-performance cars comes as the U.S. economy slowly picks up strength after the late 2000s recession.

Interestingly, a few of the more intriguing vehicles such as the resurrected Dodge Viper Coupe, superfast Nissan GT-R sports car and Porsche Panamera sedan cost just below six figures at $97,000 to $99,500. They’re all available in Charleston.

Also, a handful of luxury makes from the 2000s aren’t built any more or are being phased out. They include the Maybach, a sister manufacturer to Mercedes-Benz priced in the $300,000s that Baker Motor sold; and the Ford GT, modeled after the carmaker’s race car of that name, which appeared at Palmetto Ford. Meanwhile, Lexus has limited sales of its $375,000 LFA coupe to special orders. And Tesla electric carmaker shifted its manufacturing bent from $150,000 sports cars to a $70,000 sedans.

Limited edition designs show up now and then, too, such as the Mercedes McLaren and Porsche Carrera GT. Several extra-high-priced models trace their roots to race cars, such as the Audi R8 and the Ferrari and Lamborghini lineups.

A few of the six figure models can claim to be “halo” cars – signature brands for the affluent designed to bring shoppers into the showroom. Chevrolet topped six figures with the Corvette ZR1, priced at $111,600.

Based on the Rick Hendrick Chevrolet website, here’s one reason why someone would want to pay the hefty price: “With 638 horsepower and 604 pound-feet of torque on tap, the ZR1’s top speed has been tested at over 200 mph, making it the fastest production Corvette ever.”

Rick Pulcino, general manager at Rick Hendrick Chevrolet, said the dealership benefits in selling high-performance Corvettes such as the ZR1 because of its association with Hendrick Motorsports.

“We sold everyone we could get our hands on,” he said. “The people we sold to own their own businesses: the dry wall guy, the guy with the carpet place.”

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Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.