Supercar Designer Sells to Rich Russians

Koenigsegg.comA Koenigsegg design showing off its stuff. The company's founder is now looking to Russia's high-end market.

ANGELHOLM, Sweden — Stefan Rosvall once flew supersonic fighter jets out of the F 10 Swedish air force base here. Today, out of the very same hangar at the southern tip of Sweden, he sells some of the fastest cars in the world.

Rosvall is regional sales manager for Koenigsegg Automotive AB, a Swedish maker of high-performance sports cars that can go as fast as 420 kilometers per hour.

They also can cost well over $1 million each.

At the fighter base, now closed and partly converted into a business park, Koenigsegg builds its cars by hand in the hangar that housed Rosvall's squadron. The salesman, who flew Saab Draken jets out of the base for nine years, sometimes gets to drive the finished products at Koenigsegg.

"I always loved fast cars, and being a fighter pilot, you're used to speed," Rosvall said. "A car's not as fast, but you're on the ground," so you have a greater sense of the speed, he added.

Koenigsegg, whose CCR model at one time was the fastest production car in the world, is looking to increase its sales and branch into new countries, including Russia. The company plans to make up to 15 cars in 2011, and it's seeking a dealer for its cars in Russia.

"I think there is a big interest in high-performance cars [in Russia]," company owner and founder Christian von Koenigsegg said in an interview at the company's headquarters. The tier of Russians that "has the means to acquire this type of vehicles" is expanding, he said.

Of the 80 production cars built by Koenigsegg since it began selling in 2002, two cars have gone to Russian buyers, Rosvall said. He wouldn't disclose their names, in line with company policy.

The carmaker is getting inquiries from Russia, and given that other high-end sports car brands  have footholds there, Koenigsegg said he believes there is a market for his cars. Both Rosvall and Koenigsegg are searching for a dealer in Moscow, especially among those already selling extreme sports cars.

"We can see that a lot of other European car brands have dealers in Russia, and probably one of them could be suitable also for us," Koenigsegg said. He pointed out that Russia's roads, which have been improved in just the past few years, are allowing "more possibilities to use cars like these in appropriate ways" — versus inappropriate ways such as testing Russia's bad road surfacing.

All Koenigsegg cars are designed to be raced. An example: The company's new Agera R model goes from 0 to 100 kph in 2.9 seconds and puts out 1,115 horsepower on E85 or E100 biofuel. It gets 940 horsepower on regular gasoline. The car's price starts at 980,000 euros ($1.4 million) and goes up significantly if the customer requests high-end modifications. According to Rosvall, the car will soon challenge the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport's record for fastest production car.

Still, you don't need to be Mario Andretti to drive a Koenigsegg model. "It's not that hard to drive the car," Rosvall noted. "It's hard to take it easy."

The company is hoping wealthy Russians will take to its cars' impressive specs and exclusivity. Said Koenigsegg, "It has everything you can expect from such a car: maximum performance, extreme build quality, extreme functionality, and no one else has one, pretty much."

See the other articles in this magazine: tourists, trade and Swedish cars and trucks.

Russia - Sweden 2011
Russia - Sweden 2011
Official visits to Sweden by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov in spring 2011 are just one sign that relations between the Scandinavian powerhouse and Russia are picking up steam. The Moscow Times went to Sweden and reported firsthand on cars, tourists and trade.
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