Friday, November 19

Wheels of Fortune

Having tread the more familiar, beaten end of the path last week, ambition drives me to talk glitzy and stratospheric today. My motivation in changing gear from the Bicycle to a Bugatti is not entirely random though. It comes from realization, grudging as much as bizarre, that the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport that drastically redefined the automobile pricing summit in India, is not merely about libertine luxury but actually a fulfillment of some much humbler prayers!

First things first: it is now three weeks that the Volkswagen (literally, Peoples' Car) family launched the Veyron from its Bugatti stables to add to the options for India's Super-rich. The crown of the nation's most expensive motorcar offering is not quotidian: the Veyron sports a daunting tag, at INR 16Cr onwards a little under 3X its nearest competitor! Yet, my middle-class, nitpicking mind did not miss the claim by its aptly named sole agent, Exclusive Motors, that the gap between Veyron and #2 was much larger. Perhaps they missed the launch of INR 6Cr Merc S-Guard in Feb (for some reason a day after my birthday, if only!); maybe they decided cars not retailed by them did not qualify. Nevertheless the tab is impressive (not to forget an unkind, if pithy, suggestion to rebadge it Veyron 18 next year unless inflation bucks its double digit trend). Equally, for those still stuck to more commoditized mindsets, it is most instructive to note Bugatti's annual sales plan, all of a challenging 60-80 units worldwide, including likely 3-4 Indians globally.

Ignorance and presumed readership interest dictate me to gloss over the car's intricate details (noteworthy stress in launch press releases any how was on components of 'special materials - titanium, magnesium etc' handcrafted at Bugatti's French HQ, perhaps playing to the khadi brigade; or 'Puccini sound system with digital signal processor' variety of abstruse). Certainly, it should be safe to assume the Veyron would be a hedonistic delight, with top-notch safety features and on-tap-performance (unlike me, some drivers are seemingly able to discern every tenth of a second in a 0-100 kmph dash, the car in question clocking a 2.7). Above all, its modest volume target and the excessive hype around price are highly suggestive - what may draw prospective buyers is badge value and exclusivity rather than trivia like its pacy 407 kmph, or worry for the 10% speed compromise with the roof off.

The performance numbers do beg an obvious question: where-on will the Veyron get a chance to perform thus for its privileged owner? Of course, one is not unfamiliar with the analogy of a powerful sound machine providing decidedly superior auditory experience at lower volumes too. The appropriate situation here, however, is of the equipment being mostly forced on mute (disbelievers may try DLF Cyber City early morning, or all evening, to truly appreciate the engine's idle hum). And therein lies Reason #1 to have prayed for the Veyron's ilk: folks who buy this car would be from the ranks of the high-and-mighty, eminently better placed to motivate our civic authorities to build roads instead of potholed dirt tracks (chalo Sohna Road, rather, most of Gurgaon, if you find the depiction pessimistic). Their frustration matters, unlike ours, hence my hope!

Unfortunately the road-building fantasy may come up short against the brutal realities of our obdurate bureaucracy. Regardless, another Veyron attribute makes an even bigger, better case (raison-d-etre if you will) for my fervour. Reason #2 is, simply, its price. One hears (and of late there is little to distract) corruption rajas of contemporary India swindle 1,70,00,00,00,00,00,000 (please check my zeros someone) Rupees improving connectivity; others siphon off the good part of a (relatively modest) few tens of thousand crores when organizing a sporting event, almost killing the goose itself; an ideal housing scheme for Kargil War vets degenerates into a (paltry) some hundred crore scam. It is a struggle to grasp the enormity of these astronomical amounts - arithmetic begs a picture, worth a thousand words (crore actually). For instance, growing up in Middle India, one imagined lakhs via sundry cars; now talk a crore or two and visualize that apartment of our dreams; but, by God, a few hundred crore, and many more? Head-reeling numbers and 'everyday the paper boy brings more'? And how do they make that kind of money? Why want to? What to do with it? Enter Veyron, up the ante for cars, and at least there is the start of improved perspective. Of course, humble India needs more such symbols, if only to help us learn the New Math (of the dubious) and enhance our imagination.

Obviously this is hardly to pull the VW car down (and is too far removed to be a case of sour grapes)! Equally frankly, my congratulations to any actual buyer is half-muted; appreciation of its technological marvels or epicurean appeal has been dulled by a generally eroded conviction in the balance of good and bad karma in the world. Yet, as caprice scales new heights and honesty gets scarce to the point of endangerment, some core beliefs need reassertion. Skeptic yes, shades of grey perhaps, but one ought not succumb to the ogre: no comfortably-numb suicide. Selfishly and for posterity, the choice is to stay angry, lest we get stuck in a Wheel of Misfortune!


Anonymous said...

Absolutely!such wheels meant for the exceptionally fortunate and yes in case this fortunate soul reside in our Dilli NCR then let Jesus make its heart strong… running a wagon worth 16.4 (accompanied with the uncountable zero tail) on our impeccably pitted roads does demand lot of blood in heart & other such vital parts. Inspired from Wheels of fortune; I’m about to draft an inscription for our very own Chariot of Fire – The NANO

Standard Features: Air Conditioner: Yes ; Power Windows: Yes ; Power Steering: Yes ; Anti Lock Braking System: Who needs it? ; Air Bags (Driver|Passenger): No as they are highly inflammable ; Leather seats: Animal rights issue so NO ;CD Player: we have high-tech phones with howling sound systems so ...hell NO Specs: Overall Length&Width: 3099 /1495 ;Overall Height & Kerb Weight: 1652/915 Mileage (Overall): NA ... not applicable! ;Seating Capacity (person): 4 ; No of Doors: 4 (wow, so many of them, in case the flames get unbearable); Transmission Type: Manual (not inspired from Flinstones motor works) ;Gears/Speeds: 4 ; Minimum Turning Radius: 4 ; Tyres: 135/70 R12 (front), 155/65 R12 (rear) Tubeless … ain’t this some feature list…. Above all … Price: a sheer surprise
Sir! am an ardent fan of your upright to almost clandestine satires … a country where an 11 year old instead of revising for midterm test or getting tucked in a cozy bed, is deployed outside a swanky club @ midnight charging people 20 bucks for parking, in no way deserve 16.4 cr riding on few forbidden alloys.

Anonymous said...

Heavy duty especially reading it after Tintin! The whole corruption thing looks like boiling over and I hope India emerges stronger from it. You must also check out this report on Black Money flight out of India over the years -- someone forwarded us the link and we were getting all desi and agitated over it -- I will send it to you too.