Buckle up for champagne wishes and caviar dreams

March 3, 2022

This column published as "Cruising on Easy Street" in March 2022 issue

When a billionaire decides to buy a yacht, spacious and luxurious aren’t enough. Even a megayacht won’t do.

If you’re Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and one of the richest men in the world, your yacht needs to win.

So Bezos commissioned the Netherlands-based company Oceanco to build him the largest yacht in the world.

When finished, the $485 million ship will be an astounding 415 ft long and 130 ft tall.

The only problem is that the yacht is so enormous, Oceanco can’t get it out to sea. Blocking its path is the historic Koningshaven Bridge in Rotterdam.

That’s no problem for a billionaire, though. Bezos offered to pay for the iconic steel bridge to be temporarily dismantled to let his mammoth yacht pass by, and city officials agreed.

Locals are not happy with the plan because the historic bridge dates back to 1878 and has already been rebuilt once after suffering significant damage during World War II.

“We don’t have many historic buildings in Rotterdam. Many monuments were lost during the war, and we are very fond of this bridge,” Ton Wesselink, president of the Historical Society of Rotterdam, told the EFE news agency.

Bezos was told that the bridge would be dismantled over the coming months, and his yacht would be delivered by summer. And no, Prime Membership would not get him next-day delivery.

You can’t take it with you

Billionaires like Bezos aren’t the only pandemic success stories.

Rolls-Royce reported their highest annual sales in 2021, selling 5,586 vehicles, the most in its 117-year history.

Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös believes that the pandemic fueled that success by reminding drivers that you only live once.

“Many people witnessed people in their community dying from Covid,” he told The Guardian, “and that made them think life can be short and you’d better live now rather than postpone until a later date. That has helped Rolls-Royce.”

Müller-Ötvös also believes that Rolls-Royce benefited from pandemic restrictions that limited the ways that wealthy consumers could spend their money.

“It is very much due to Covid that the entire luxury business is booming worldwide,” he said. “People couldn’t travel a lot, they couldn’t invest a lot into luxury services … and there is quite a lot of money accumulated that is spent on luxury goods.”

That accumulated money helped Rolls-Royce sell more vehicles last year costing $280,000 or more than any other automaker.

And for customers who want to spend even more, Rolls-Royce now has a Coachbuild division where drivers can design their own custom vehicles.

Ever dreamed of having a Rolls-Royce with a built-in champagne fridge, hand-painted silk upholstery, or diamond-encrusted paint? Coachbuild can do it. The company describes the invitation-only service as “the automotive equivalent of haute couture.”

“People have worked hard to make their money,” Müller-Ötvös said, “and this is about allowing them to create their personal dream.”

Satisfaction not guaranteed

Given the slightly smaller budget that most of us have for a new car, our “personal dream” is often just comfort and reliability.

Consumer Reports analyzed how car owners’ dreams line up with reality by asking its members whether they are satisfied with their car enough to buy it again.

Despite poor scores in Consumer Reports’ own reliability testing, the Chevrolet Corvette was ranked the most satisfying vehicle with an amazing 97% of owners saying they would definitely buy one again.

The Mazda MX-5 Miata came in second with an impressive 89% satisfaction level, followed by three vehicles tied at 87%: the Kia Telluride, Ford Mustang Mach-E, and Tesla Model Y.

On the flip side, the Toyota C-HR subcompact/crossover/mini SUV was ranked the most disappointing vehicle on the market, with only 29% of owners saying they would buy one again.

In response, Toyota is considering using diamond-encrusted paint on the 2023 model.

About The Author: Matthews has been chronicling the unexpectedly humorous side of transportation news since 2000. The stories are all true.

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