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Casino hotel dealership making regular folks feel like celebrities

By Evelyn Kanter, February 21st, 2009

Only in the glitzy town of Las Vegas would you find Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborhini, Salleen, Porsche, Spyker, Bugatti and other super-expensive supercars sitting around in hotel lobbies, all shiny and perfect. They aren't there for show. They are actually on sale and belong to two of the most successful exotic car dealerships in the country located inside the Wynn-Encore and Palazzo hotels.

"It's like a car show 365 days a year," Jerry Byrd, manager of the Ferrari/Maserati store at the Wynn. We were watching a parade of visitors admire such models as a red F430 sports car and a black Gran Turismo performance coupe.

Just like any other car show, there is an admission charge. As many vehicles as these two dealerships sell and service, the more profitable part of their business is the steady stream of customers who pay $10 each to get up close and personal with several million dollars worth of torque.

You can even have your photo taken at the wheel of a sexy Ferrari convertible for $9. A fancy frame with the Ferrari logo will cost you a little more. There's one employee whose full-time job it is to take those photos and he was pretty busy the day I visited. Two couples from Mexico said they had never seen so many beautiful cars in one place. That's the idea.

This dealership has the largest service department in the U.S. for Ferraris and Maseratis. Byrd says customers often drive in for the weekend and say, "change the oil while I go to the roulette table" or see a show. Others trade in a Porsche for a Ferrari, or the other way around, so used car sales are an important part of the dealership.

"We won't take anything that's been hit or had work. They have to be pristine so there are no excuses down the road," Byrd told me. Flawless, like the diamonds in the Bulgari and Graff stores elsewhere in the casino hotels, sits a 1995 Ferrari F50. If you have to ask, you can't afford it, but just in case you are wondering, the 520-horsepower Ferrari is $939,995. Byrd encourages the buyers of his cars to put mileage on their new vehicles, saying, "it's a shame to have such a fine automobile and leave it in the garage."

The dealership was the idea of Mark Schorr, a Ferrari fan and casino mogul Steve Wynn's second-in-command. It's also a partnership with racing legend and automotive entrepreneur Roger Penske. So there are Penske racecars on display too, including a Dale Earnhardt NASCAR vehicle and a 2000 Indy car.

There are around 30 vehicles on display, including a Smart fortwo that looks like it could be a quick snack for the Maserati. What's a Smart fortwo doing here? Penske was smart enough to buy into the U.S. sales rights for the tiny, fuel-efficient car that has become an icon in the 10 years since Mercedes introduced it in Europe. Fast cars and Smart cars -- what a combo.

There's also a Ferrari store with t-shirts, luggage, kid-size pedal cars and radio-controlled Scudiero Spiders, all with the famous prancing horse logo. The showroom/museum and retail store complex is a few steps beyond the esplanade of shops which link the Wynn to its sister hotel the even more luxurious Encore, and undoubtedly prompted Lamborghini to open its own hotel lobby showroom.

Lamborghini is at the Palazzo hotel and also has a store for Lambo merchandise, plus a Lamborghini restaurant, which serves Italian food, of course. The dealership's larger showroom and service department is not located on the Strip, so this one at the Palazzo is primarily for show. It also charges a $10 entry fee to look at these beautiful vehicles we can't afford unless we hit the casino's jackpots. Even so, manager Ben Nef told me that recently he sold seven cars in a single day right out of the hotel lobby. Only in Vegas.

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