Thursday, October 11, 2007

How To Live Rich Without Going Broke

While very few of us will reach the ranks of the world's billionaires, it doesn't mean we can't live like them.

And we don't have to shell out several million to do so.

That's because a number of companies are offering temporary use of high-end products and services such as yachts, exotic cars, luxury handbags, and even personal chefs and stylists.

So while you may not be able to call it your own, you still get every benefit of living the rich life.

"We call it the Luxury Access Revolution," says Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, a research company that provides luxury information to high-net-worth individuals and the companies that cater to them. "It makes it easy for you to say, 'I'm not going to buy it. I'm going to carve out the experience and buy the experience,' because [people] don't want the hassle of owning the possession. You're seeing it across many more categories."

NetJets, a Berkshire Hathaway-owned company that began offering fractional jet ownership in 1986, caught on to customer desire for the luxe life with minimal commitment in 2001. That's when it introduced the Marquis Jet Card, which allows the user to sublease a NetJets fractional share of which Marquis Jet Partners is the owner. Individuals may pre-buy 25 hours of yearly flight time for $119,900 (excluding additional charges like tax, fuel, etc.).

Several other companies are following suit.

Home Cooking
Private Chefs, which has staffed the homes of Richard Branson and Madonna, will dispatch a personal cook to yours for as little as a day. Be prepared to pay a $100 agency fee plus $35 per hour, and everything else is taken care of, from the shopping and cooking to serving and cleanup.

"This is the part of our business that's been increasing steadily in the past year," says Christian Paier, PCI president. The company gets an average of 10 requests per week in each of its eight offices located in Beverly Hills, Calif.; Palm Beach, Fla.; Dallas; London; New York; Las Vegas; Seattle; and Washington, D.C. "It appeals," Paier continues, "to a lot more people than the full-time thing. It's affordable; anybody can do it." His customers often "want to splurge and have a wonderful experience, whether it's just them and their spouse, or a small dinner for six or eight friends. People absolutely love it."

It's hard not to feel privileged when an executive chef is serving you gourmet food, but when it's not simply your primary residence, but rather your only one, cabin fever tends to set in.

Solution? Get an apartment in Paris.

Ooh-La-La Life
Yes, it may be temporary, but opt for one of the exquisite, fully furnished pieds-a-terre available through, and you're practically guaranteed an authentic experience. The company offers short- and long-term rentals in select neighborhoods, including Saint-Germain-des-Pres, Ile St. Louis, Le Marais and the Latin Quarter. To live like a local without the hassle, the company offers an optional daily or weekly housekeeping service, and an optional car and driver.

A 2,000-square-foot apartment, for example, which is considered very large for Paris, would run for about $3 million, and that's without taxes and the cost of maintaining such an investment. However, a brief stay in one of's similarly sized dwellings, which combine the spaciousness and privacy of an apartment with the amenities of a hotel, might only cost about $10,000 per week at the higher end of the spectrum.

"It's a place of their own," says CEO Claude Nederovique. "They live like Parisians. They can really participate in life, [which is] a completely different experience [from a hotel]."

Nederovique saw the number of people requesting his service double last year. 90% of his clientele come from the U.S., and most rent from one week to one month, though some stay as long as three months.

Handbag Heaven
Even those who just want to dress like a socialite, but can't bring themselves to part with $1,200 for a Gucci handbag, can do it affordably with Bag Borrow or Steal, a site that lends customers high-end bags and jewelry from designers like Chanel, Versace and Dior, for a weekly or monthly fee.

"Borrowing is really about freedom, access and convenience," says Lynn Ridenour, senior vice president of marketing. "It gives [customers] greater access to a vast inventory of luxury accessories and the opportunity to indulge in more, more often."

Is there a downside? Of course: In the end, you do have to give it all back.

Still, says Pedraza, "There's no question that [the trend of temporary use] will grow. It is such a great convenience where you can buy the experience, not the depreciating assets.

Source @ Forbes

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Hyundai's Concept Genesis

Once known for building economy cars of dubious quality, Hyundai has been moving upscale with such well-appointed, near-luxury cars as its recently overhauled Santa Fe SUV and its all-new Veracruz SUV.

Hyundai's unveiling of its Concept Genesis prototype last week at the New York International Auto Show was a turning point in the company's history, because the Concept Genesis is the first Hyundai that is a bona fide luxury car--a sedan with faux-Lexus styling and the size of a BMW 5 Series. The prototype, which previews a production model that will go on sale next year, puts Toyota Motor (nyse: TM - news - people ) on alert: Hyundai is about to challenge not only Toyota but its upscale Lexus subsidiary as well.

The rear-drive Concept Genesis will spawn a car that will cost "well under $30,000," says Hyundai Motor America Vice President John Krafcik.

The other most important detail about the car is that it will feature a V-8 engine--the type of power plant widely used by such luxury automakers as Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz. The highest-caliber sedans, such as BMW's 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz's S-Class, use V-8 or V-12 engines, so Hyundai's first V-8 is a step into the big leagues for the automaker. Not even Acura has a V-8 in its lineup.

In a recent statement, Hyundai said the Concept Genesis' 4.6-liter V-8 delivers "well over 300" horsepower. The V-8 comes with a six-speed transmission, and in future applications, Hyundai could enlarge the engine or equip it with supercharging. "Concept Genesis," the company said, "marks the beginning of premium performance for the Hyundai brand," adding that the car has a zero-to-60 time of "well under six seconds."

Americans have never seen a rear-wheel-drive Hyundai before. Rear drive, in which the transmission sends the engine's power to the rear wheels, provides superior steering and sportier driving dynamics, compared with front-wheel drive. Premium sedans, such as the 7 Series and S-Class, are rear drive, as are such sports cars as Porsches and Ferraris.

Hyundai says the Concept Genesis uses "ultra-high-tensile steel" in its construction, giving the car a stiff, light, large body that compares favorably to those of BMW's 5 Series and Mercedes' E-Class midsize sedans. Hyundai also says it tuned the Concept Genesis' suspension to be sporty and responsive. The driver can select settings for the car's ride and steering characteristics.

The car also features such upscale amenities as adaptive cruise control, which can make the car follow the vehicle in front of it at a fixed distance; heated and cooled seats; a push-button starter; a navigation system with a rear-mounted camera to assist in parking; Bluetooth technology; and an Infinity audio system.

The Fact
The closest thing Hyundai has to a luxury sedan right now is its $25,000 Azera, which is one of the market's best values. The Azera has a 263-hp V-6 engine, and its interior volume compares favorably to that of the most expensive sedans from Mercedes and BMW. The Azera's interior looks remarkably like that of a Lexus and features standard upscale amenities, such as a leather-wrapped steering wheel and dual-zone climate control. Last year, Azera sales increased by 50% to 27,000 units.

Source @ Forbes