While some car buyers are drawn to big rebates,others can't resist paying $40,000 over list price for a new set of wheels.
The Acura NSX is commanding that kind of money from those who want an exotic car without a Ferrari or Lamborghini price tag.``It's a bargain,' said sales manager Betsy Volaric of Sunshine Acura in Farmington Hills.
The NSX, which looks a bit like a shrunken Ferrari Testarosa, carries a list price of $60,000 with a manual transmission and $63,000 for one with an automatic.
But since Acura, the luxury division of Honda Motor Co. Ltd. of Japan, plans to import just 3,000 of them a year, demand is far outpacing supply.
That pumps up the price.
Premiums on cars are nothing new to the auto industry. Last year, buyers shelled out up to $25,000 for the hard-to-get Mazda Miata, which carried a base price of $13,800.
In Greensboro, Crown Acura on Wendover Avenue has already sold a red NSX to a local doctor. Another car - a black one - will arrive in the next four to six weeks, but its already been sold, too.
General manger John McCarthy said the car is selling for $15,000 to $20,000 over its sticker price. The NSX is so obsolete, its practically selling itself.
``We don't have to sell it. The market is really setting the price,' McCarthy said. ``This is the first affordable exotic. For the money it's actually underpriced.'
McCarthy said he isn't sure whether the dealership will receive other NSX cars.
Volaric said her dealership, one of 300 Acura dealers in the country, is tacking $20,000 to $25,000 onto the price of the NSX, because that's what the market will bear.
``Anybody who is familiar with the exotic car market realizes that $85,000 is a bargain,' she said. Ferraris and Lamborghinis begin at more than $100,000 and stretch past $300,000 each, before any premium.
Acura spokesman Mike Spencer said dealers in markets with high exotic-car interest, such as Los Angeles and Miami, are getting up to $100,000 for an NSX - $40,000 over sticker price.
``Legally, we can't tell the dealers what to sell the cars for,' he said. ``At the same time, they look at this as 'Geez, if I sell the car to a speculator for $60,000 and he turns around and sells it for $80,000 to $90,000, who's the fool here?''
A fool has no place behind the wheel of an NSX. The sleek, two-seater packs a 3-liter, V-6 engine which puts out 270 horsepower. It's top speed is rated around 165 mph, and it can go from a standing start to 60 mph in about 5.5 seconds.
Tooling around Detroit freeways in an NSX causes normally vacant highway stares to come alive. Even at highway speeds, motorists hover around the NSX for a closer look.
In a recent test drive:
The driver of a Mazda RX-7 on the right looked for a minute, dropped back for a different view, came up on the left for another peek and moved to the front to take a look at the NSX in his rearview mirror.
Afterwards, he dropped back to the right, nodded his head up and down vigorously and flashed a thumbs-up sign.
A load of what appeared to be teen-agers in an Oldsmobile pulled alongside and accelerated, appearing to dare a highway race. The NSX is a conspicuous car and the offer was ignored.
Parked at a local mall, the car was a magnet for nearly everyone who walked by, including car crazies and store clerks.
``I thought it was a Ferrari,' said Denise DiDonato, of Rochester Hills, a cosmetics clerk at Saks Fifth Avenue in a suburban Detroit shopping mall. ``It's cute, very cute.'
She owns a 1990 Lincoln Town Car - 56.8 inches longer and 1,000 pounds heavier than an NSX.
Kevin Corcoran, of Franklin, could have been doing an advertisement for the car: ``It's extraordinarily flashy and reasonably priced as far as these things go. There's a lot of Italian in it.'
Corcoran owns a pickup, in which he spends most of his highway time, and a McLaren, an extremely low-volume exotic sports car.
With a target volume of 3,000 annually, the NSX doesn't pose a significant volume threat to any car now being sold in the United States.
It's priced somewhere around a Porsche 911, the Mercedes-Benz 300-series, a BMW 7-series or a Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1, the hottest car made by a major American manufacturer.
The NSX doesn't look nearly as muscular as the ZR-1, and it isn't. The ZR-1's 5.7-liter, V-8 engine produces 375 horsepower, nearly 30 percent more than the NSX.
The all-aluminum NSX makes up for some of that difference in weight, coming in at 3,010 pounds compared with the ZR-1 at 3,465 pounds.
Canadian visitor Craig Donnelly is an NSX fan. He said he had a poster of a black one back home in Ottawa, where he also has a Pontiac Sunbird.
``It's got the same size engine as that,' he said nodding to the NSX, ``but it doesn't go like that.'