Wealthy young sports car drivers dodge the cost of accidents
If you're under 28 you can't drive one of the Italian roadsters unless daddy pays for cover - and if you wreck the car he picks up the tab too
Owning a Ferrari may be the dream of many young men, but they need to have rich fathers if they are going to drive the car out of the showroom.
In Hong Kong, insurance companies will not offer policies for Ferraris to anyone under 28 years old. So if young racers wreck their cars, it is normally daddy who picks up the bill.
But often the price of the damage they leave in their wake is much greater. A recent spate of high-speed accidents has drawn media attention to the problems that arise when fast cars are in the hands of rich young men.
In March, Ling Gu, the son of President Hu Jintao's closest aide, Ling Jihua, was killed when his speeding Ferrari crashed in Beijing. Two women who were also in the car were seriously injured.
International media outlets report that online searches for the words "Ferrari crash" have been blocked on the mainland since the crash, underscoring the political sensitivity of the accident.
In May, a wealthy 31-year-old Chinese expatriate who crashed his Ferrari into a taxi, killing himself and two others, sparked outrage in Singapore.
More recently in Thailand, Vorayuth Yoovidhya, the 20-something grandson of the creator of the Red Bull energy drink, was accused of running over a policeman with his Ferrari in Bangkok.
In March 2002, Hong Kong singing superstar Nicholas Tse Ting-fung, then 21, made headlines when he wrote off his Ferrari 360 Modena and let his chauffeur take the blame. Three months later Tse crashed his turbo-charged Audi into another car.
A spokesman for Italian Motors in Ap Lei Chau, the official Hong Kong Ferrari dealer, said that to buy a new Ferrari 458 Italia, the most popular model, local drivers had to be over 28 years old or they would be unable to get insurance. Younger drivers thus had to put the car in their father's name.
Insurance for a new Ferrari is generally around HK$50,000 a year for an experienced driver.
"Insurance quotations vary, but an older driver's no-claims bonus [NCB] will reduce car insurance premiums," the spokesman said. "Its worth varies from company to company. A NCB of five years or more, for example, can generally entitle drivers to a 60 per cent discount."
And there are incentives for going accident-free. For every year a driver holds insurance on a car without making a claim, they will earn another year's NCB to a maximum of five years.
Hongkongers buy about 100 Ferrari 458 Italia models each year at a basic cost of HK$3.928 million. This includes first-registration tax and a three-year manufacturers' warranty.
The price will rise if drivers customise the car. Racing seats with carbon fibre will add another HK$119,196, while having classic Ferrari colours will set you back HK$175,010.
Bad driving can affect anyone, young and old, but accidents involving flashy roadsters are more shocking. Last year a dozen of the most exclusive cars in the world were reduced to scrap metal after what was the most expensive multiple-vehicle collision outside a racing track.
Eight Ferraris and a Lamborghini Diablo were among the 14 cars that crashed in heavy rain in Japan. Police described the drivers, members of a car collectors' club, as "a gathering of narcissists".