Internet entrepreneur and supercar lover Ben Flux was one of many subscribers stung by the demise of Sydney’s Supercar Club. Yet now, just two years on, he’s back for more, signing up to Queensland-based eCurie25, the latest automotive timeshare venture for lovers of exotic roadware.
One might ask why. The Sydney-based Supercar Club drew a load of publicity over its four-year life before collapsing in a heap of recrimination and acrimony in 2010.
Self-made people are pretty smart with money, at least the ones who stay self-made. But if there’s one thing that can get them to drop their guard, it’s expensive roadware. Drive an Italian stallion off a showroom floor and you can do your PA’s annual wage in depreciation. Most of them know that but buy them anyway.
For those who love the cars but can’t get over the money pit, there are supercar clubs. These work like libraries: take out a subscription and you buy points that you allocate to set periods in particular models. That means don’t just get the single car buyer-owners get – you open the door to a collection of exotica and erotica with (they hope) enough time at the wheel(s) to happily live with your ordinary old Benz or Lexus day to day.
That’s part of what’s drawn Flux to the idea not once but twice. “I set up to pay monthly rather than annually – I was worried about committing to a full year, which proved prudent. But I lost my joining fee and I’d paid the first four months in advance. That proved especially costly because I'd decided to take only one car out in that time, to build up my points for later in the year.”
eCurie has kicked off on Queensland’s Gold Coast with a formula they say is safer. For a start, it’s an international show, with well established branches in the UK and the US. With that and evidence of a tidier operation with better corporate governance, they’ve managed to persuade a number of subscribers once-bitten by the old club not to be twice shy.
Flux was convinced by what he calls the professionalism of local organisers, as well as several years’ knowledge of the established UK business. “It helped that they waived the joining fee, and they’re happy to schedule payment monthly,” he told motoring.com.au. “This time round, I’ll be taking at least a car or two each month, which means I have virtually no exposure.” So far, he’s driven eCurie’s Nissan GTR and Lamborghini Gallardo Spider. Up next: the Ferrari 430.
eCurie25 claims it’s now the longest running and best established supercar club of its kind in the world. It’s been running since 2006 and survived the GFC. “Obviously an enterprise like this is pretty vulnerable to fluctuations of that ilk, but it survived,” associate director David Hardman told motoring.com.au recently. “It’s a quite different concept to the old Supercar Club,” he added.
Hardman should know – he was the defunct club’s Queensland operations manager before it flipped. Hardman’s back-then experience is now proving valuable in helping eCurie25 avoid the pitfalls that dogged his old employer.
“The old Supercar Club worked to a different concept,” he explained. “They worked on a formula of X points and X kilometres for X bucks. eCurie25’s two-level business model is better and fairer. It allows people to buy in according to what they expect and what they want to spend.”
The entry ‘V12’ package buys you 900 points for $30K plus GST. The upper ‘Ultimate’ level gets you 1200 points a year for $42K plus GST. You can also buy points top-ups.
How you spend your points depends on several criteria: the category of car, what part of the week you’d like it (obviously weekends attract a premium) and how far you want to drive.
More important, eCurie has managed to persuade members of the old club – some of whom were stung when it collapsed – to give it another go. “That’s pretty remarkable,” founding director Minette Collins told motoring.com.au. “Obviously we’re pleased about that, because it’s such a useful endorsement of what we’re doing. I mean, our subscription list is made up of people with a fair bit of money to spend, but they’re also pretty savvy with that money. They don’t like losing it.”
Indeed, this is part of the rationale behind such clubs: they give you access to a portfolio of cars for an annual subscription fee that can be less than a tenth of the purchase price. The Queensland club’s top-shelf Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, for example, lists at well over $500K. “Yeh, when you buy something like that, you can do a year’s subscription to eCurie25 just by driving it out of the showroom,” said Hardman. “A lot of our people look at it that way. This is a kind of compromise. It gives them access to the cars they want with some financial burden but nothing like what you incur buying one.”
There are three categories of car in the Aussie club as it stands. The entry level e2 is exemplified by a Nissan GTR and a BMW M3. The midrange e1 has models like a Ferrari F430 and an Aston Vantage roadster, while at the top of the tree is where you’ll find models like a Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder. The cost in points covers a fair ambit: grab a car for a Wednesday and it’ll set you back anything from 17 to 30 points, a weekend from 95 to 140. Three straight weeks in the Lambo take 719 points.
The first 80km of each day are factored in; they’re part of the deal. That means if you book something for a three-day weekend, you get the first 240km built in – it’s reasonably generous. Past that, you pay in a percentage of your points for extra kays – it varies with your membership level. The costliest car, the Gallardo, consumes about a quarter of a point per kilometre.
Where the new club also differs from the old Sydney club is in being part of a worldwide network. When you buy in here, you can use your points at overseas clubs too. “That’s a good thing,” says Hardman. “New York just bought a McLaren MP4.”
eCurie25 also runs social events. “We’ve organised a trip to this year’s Monaco GP, for example, where we set down in Britain, grab cars from there and motor down through France to Monaco. It costs extra, but we’re in a position to give you a lot more for your money than you’d get by setting up the same thing independently. If you could, when you consider the tour will get you there in a fleet including an LP560 and a 458 Italia.
Flux, meanwhile, has worked out that if he wants to make money from exotic cars, he’s better off saving his purchase pennies for classics known to appreciate in value. With an embryonic collection of his own, the a seasoned internet entrepreneur has also set to work on the launch of Classic Car – the local cousin of equivalent portals recently launched in the UK and US. “Many a great business has grown from a passion or hobby,” he said.
One need not ask Collins and Harding whether they agree.