For the elite who can afford it, the U.S. is about to get another Italian supercar.
Pagani, which has made cars in a village outside Modena, Italy, for a decade, will announce today that it is entering the U.S. market with a model called the Huayra.
The 700-horsepower two-seater will cost around 825,000 euros, equal to about $1.1 million at current exchange rates, says Francesco Zappacosta, Pagani Automobili's managing director.
But don't reach for your wallet yet. The company only made 18 cars last year, all the outgoing model. For the new Huayra, Pagani hopes to double the rate when production reaches full swing next year. No big rush.
"We're this little small (company) that tries to make nice cars for people who love us," Zappacosta says.
The new supercar arrives at an interesting time in the limited market for buyers of million-dollar cars. The fastest and most heralded supercar in the segment, Volkswagen's $1.3 million Bugatti Veyron coupe, is winding down production. Though other makers have expressed an interest, their new creations could be years away.
"Theoretically, this would leave an opening for someone to come in at a high level," says Robert Ross, automotive editor for the Robb Report, the millionaire magazine. He describes the Pagani as "really an amazing supercar."
The company was founded in San Cesario sul Panaro, Italy, in 1991 by an Argentine, Horacio Pagani. Working for years around racing and exotic cars, Pagani specialized in supplying advanced composite materials for other automakers. Composites such as carbon fiber are used in the bodies of the most expensive cars today because of their exceptional lightness and strength.
Pagani started making cars in addition to parts. However, the outgoing model, the Zonda, doesn't meet safety and emissions requirements of the U.S. "We've gotten a lot of requests from the U.S., but we've never been able to fill them," Zappacosta said.
The new model, named for a South American god of wind, is aimed at being certified as street legal in the U.S. "This automobile is the result of five years of dedicated effort for the Pagani team, and we see this as an unprecedented opportunity to continue expanding our vision of the future for the supercar industry," Pagani said in a statement.
The car uses a 6-liter, 12-cylinder engine made by Mercedes-Benz's AMG performance unit. The engine develops about 700 horsepower. Top speed is expected to be 230 miles per hour, Zappacosta says.
But Huayra isn't just about engine power. It will stand apart because of its light weight, just under 3,000 pounds, which enhances quickness and handling.
Instead of just a carbon-fiber body, the Huayra will have embedded strands of titanium. The titanium prevents the carbon fiber from shattering if struck. Instead, the vehicle will bend like the body of a steel or aluminum car, Zappacosta says. Nuts and bolts used in the car are also titanium, an expensive metal prized for its lightness.
For the money, buyers get to call the shots about what goes in their cars. Every one is made to a buyer's specifications. "We see ourselves like a custom suit maker," Zappacosta says.
But there are some distinctive touches. Instruments on the dashboard are made by a Swiss watchmaker. Much of the interior is shiny billet aluminum. The cars generally aren't meant to be raced, but simply enjoyed.
To sell the Huayra, Pagani will start initially with two dealers in the U.S.
"America is sort of a litmus test for the acceptance" of new exotic cars, Ross said. "Whatever they sell to the Germans and the Swiss, they are going to sell more in the U.S."