Here is a tale of two car markets. First, there is the mass market, where auto giants like Ford and GM are hurting and the average age of the car in the U.S. is now a record 10.8 years.
And then there is the super-car market for the super-rich. The Lamborghini Aventador, a $400,000 power monster that looks like the next-generation Batmobile, is now sold out. If you want a new one, the waiting list has now stretched to 18 months.
Demand is so overwhelming for the Aventador that Lamboghini is racing to expand its manufacturing capacity – for the third time. It currently has capacity to make 800 a year.
The company says it is investing in new capacity and hopes soon to be able to shrink the waiting time to 12 months. I think most CEO’s would put this into the “good problem to have” category. But remember, this car has already been out for nearly a year and demand is still far outstripping supply.
Some of this, of course, is owed to the Aventador itself. To put it in high-net-worth terms, the Aventador is, well, very cool. It replaces Lambo’s former V-12 flagship, the Murciélago. The Aventador’s 6.5 liter, 700-horsepower engine pushes the car to a top speed of 217 m.p.h. and a zero-to-60 time of 2.9 seconds.
And the design? Well, as one British reviewer wrote, it is “easily the sexiest, maddest, most flamboyant work of art on the roads.” Top Gear called it “the closest thing to a stealth fighter jet that you’ll ever see on the road” and remarked with shock that "the air-conditioning works.” (They also called it “a bit boring” to drive.)
The Aventador’s success is also part of a broader supply-demand crunch for some top super-cars. The new four-seat Ferrari FF also has a wait time of more than 12 months. The Bugatti Veyron also has a waiting list. Luxury carmaker’s worry that frustrated customers will walk away from the brand, convinced it can’t deliver on its sales promises.
For now, however, Lamborghini customers are finding their way around the wait. Media reports say that a 22-year-old Saudi paid $71,000 to jump ahead of the line and get his Aventador immediately. In other words, the super-rich are paying more for waiting-list slots than most people are spending on their cars.
-By CNBC's Robert Frank
Follow Robert Frank on Twitter: @robtfrank