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In the technology world, no question comes up more frequently these days than— "Are we in a bubble?" And while it's not up to us at CNBC to answer that question, we do sometimes happen upon little nuggets—data, anecdotes, tweets and the occasional wild party that can possibly help others make their own assessments. When we do, we'll share them in a little column we're calling: "Bubble watch?"
On a recent afternoon, a fancy car rolled up outside one of the many co-working space cafes in downtown San Francisco to pick up a passenger. This wasn't just any ordinary fancy car. It was a 2014 Bentley Mulsanne, which—fully equipped with a champagne cooler, backseat picnic trays that double as WiFi-enabled iPad work stations and heated massage chairs—sells for about $400,000. And this wasn't your typical Bentley passenger. It was a tech reporter—this tech reporter.
Welcome to San Francisco in 2014. Some people have turned their own autos into taxis, others are working on driverless cars, and a precious few can afford to throw down the equivalent of a seed financing round on a Bentley. There's no shortage of freshly minted multimillionaires in the area, a result of blockbuster initial public offerings from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, so the 95-year-old automaker has come to the right place.
But why is a tech reporter taking a ride? Bentley has hired a public relations firm (representatives asked that the name be withheld) to help spread the word. And the offer to spend an hour riding along the sunny Embarcadero while receiving a lower-back rub—from a machine—is certainly not the typical PR pitch, even in these freewheeling days.
For those nouveau riche who want to get around quickly (tops out near 200 miles per hour) and luxuriously on the weekend, and have a personal driver for the Monday to Friday grind, Bentley is looking at you. We reporters will have to settle for a brief demo.
—By CNBC's Ari Levy. Follow him on Twitter: @levynews