Despite the vast quantities of Toyota Camrys which inhabit the modern American boulevard, it can be argued that the automotive world is currently undergoing one of the biggest performance booms it has ever seen. After a brief absence in the previous decade, the Chevy Camaro is once again fighting off the Ford Mustang- a car which can now supposedly top 200 miles an hour (at least in Shelby form). Across the Pacific Ocean, the Japanese have resurrected the inexpensive RWD sports car in the form of the Toyobaru twins. All around the globe, the hot hatch business is booming, with enough souped up Golfs, Focuses, and Renault Clios to satisfy any aficionado of Monster energy drinks. And then, most importantly, there's the supercars.
Just some 30-40 years ago the entire supercar market pretty much consisted of the Lamborghini Countach and a small handful of it's wedge shaped brethren. However, within the last 10 years the market has become a sort of Golden Corral buffet for the wealthy- where "all you can eat" becomes "all you can buy." For example, in recent years:
Ferrari has pulled the wraps off the 458, FF, F12, and LaFerrari
Upon deciding that the recent Aventador wasn't pointy enough Lamborghini created the Egoista and Veneno.
Pagani, after releasing about 15,000 different versions of the Zonda built the even more ludicrous Huayra.
Mclaren jumped back into the production game with the MP4-C and the upcoming P1.
After releasing the new 911 Porsche is going to produce the 918.
Aside from the list above, about a million other smaller companies, or companies that usually build more mundane cars have jumped into the super car game including but not limited to: Lexus, Noble, Spyker, Koenigsegg, Gumpert, Ford, SSC, Bugatti (technically VW), Wiesman, and Mercedes Benz.
It seems as if everybody these days wants what they build to be parked in the air conditioned garage of some middle eastern oil tycoon. On the surface, this all seems fine and dandy, and I suppose it is. However, it just seems as if the supercar is no longer really "super." It's not that that modern performance cars have gotten slower, which they haven't. Instead, it's that they've become less special, less god-like, and more "pedestrian." Let me explain:
Cars like the Lamborghini Countach have cemented their place in automotive history because in their time they were so radical, so unlike anything the world had seen before. With their ostentatious styling and poor ergonomics they helped to define a genre, and inspire copycats. (*COUGH*vector*COUGH*) The Countach truly was a middle finger to the wheezy American land yachts and morbid British Leyland products of the late 1970s, and there was a reason that it was on the wall of every 15 year old boy. It was distinctive.
Nowadays it's a bit harder to be distinctive as a supercar maker, as you're not competing with a fake wood paneled, police engined Dodge pickup for attention. There's actually a wealth of other manufacturers that a company must make itself stand out from. Unfortunately for pretty much everybody, that means that an 800-900 hp hybrid/electric powered supercar just isn't going to cut it. Yes, I know "Electric power is the future" and all that, but it's not like every other company doesn't think the same way, and is building a car around that ideology. If it was 2000, that would be some jaw dropping stuff, but come on, we're in 2013 and that technology's already been played out. (This is aimed at the LaFerrari and 918 if you haven't guessed)
Well then, what about just normal gasoline powered cars? Well, consider the Lexus LFA. It was superbly engineered, and everybody seemed to like it, but the world of Ferraris and Lamborghinis it went largely ignored. Why was this you may ask?
Well, Floridian grandpa badging aside, the Lexus was nothing new. Yes it looked really cool, but honestly, so has almost everything else since Ferrari got the modern supercar ball rolling with the Enzo. Yes, it had 500 some horsepower, but even the Shelby Mustang could make that with 2 less cylinders. And it's not like good handling, high revving engines, V-10s or $400,000 price tags are anything new to the Dubai crowd. Nobody will remember the Lexus, because it simply was not groundbreaking.
In similar fashion nobody remembers the ridiculously quick Bugatti EB110 because the even quicker McLaren F1 came along and turned the definition of high performance on it's head.
Due to this philosophy, I find myself having a hard time getting excited over new cars like the LaFerrari. In a world that's over saturated with high speed performance machines, what was once cutting edge has become the norm. I'm sure the car is breathtakingly fast, and very sexy in person, but unlike the Enzo it's probably not going to set any benchmarks in either category. What the world needs is a thick rimmed glasses wearing, indie loving, Starbucks Coffee drinking hipster of a company to release a car that refuses to conform to the mainstream. There's just too many million dollar Toyota Camrys.
Maybe, after all, the Supercar industry, like Myspace and inevitably Facebook, has run its course. Maybe the next automotive frontier does not lie in the realm of the Bugatti Veyron, but rather within the world of new start up companies. Elon Musk has experienced some rather remarkable, not to mention groundbreaking (factory stores anyone?) success with the Model S, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the market go in that direction.
Could it be that in 30 years when we look back, we will view the Tesla Model S as more of a "super" car rather than the Porsche 918 or the LaFerrari? I sure as heck think so.
EDIT: Since there seems to be a little confusion, I am not trying to say the model S competes with the Lamborghini Aventador or anything similar. I am, however, applauding Elon Musk for plunging into and exploring the electric car industry to depths nobody has before. Much like Bugatti did with the Veyron, or Lamborghini with the miura, or so forth.