BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche all offer extremely long options lists on their vehicles, as is typical for upscale German brands,
But while the basic form of the car and key technology or safety features can’t be altered, what if you would like a different exterior colour or interior trim combination to what’s already available in the brochure or options list, or to perhaps monogram your initials on the seat headrests?
This is where each manufacturer’s ‘off the menu’ custom order personalisation program comes into play.
All BMWs have a standard palette of solid, metallic and pearlescent paint colours and various interior trim options, however for those who do not like these available choices, BMW Individual takes the customisation one step up by providing an extended range.
The Individual range may comprise anything from paint colours that are factory order only (rather than something that’s easily found on the dealer lot), to a particular colour of leather or interior trim piece, or even something as simple as a particular wheel design or satin finish for the exterior window surrounds.
These options have traditionally only been offered on BMW’s larger vehicles (from the 3 Series upwards), however, the 1 Series hatch and forthcoming new 2 Series coupe will also be available with their own distinct range of Individual paint colours.
Even more exclusive than BMW Individual is the next tier of customisation, BMW Individual Manufaktur. This is the entry point for true special commissions, where you can ask BMW, for example, to paint a car in the same colour as your handbag, or use a colour of leather that matches that of a favourite sofa or lounge.
Perhaps borrowing a little from sister brand Rolls-Royce, the Individual Manufaktur process also allows for ‘coach lines’ to be painted on the exterior side profile, as well as the embroidery of custom logos, monograms or messages on the seat headrests.
All customisations offered by Individual Manufaktur are generally handmade, and typically only available for models produced at one of BMW’s German factories, for 3 Series and above vehicles. Customised vehicles come off the standard assembly line and are sent to the Individual Manufaktur workshop in Garching, Germany (near Munich) before being delivered to the customer.
Depending on what is being customised, the cost can range from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, and as all cars are special orders, can take anywhere from 3-6 months or more to be delivered.
Mercedes-Benz offers a comparable two-tiered system of customisation to BMW, with its ‘Designo’ colours offering an extended factory-order paint range, including satin grey ‘magno’ finishes, as well as special interior trim elements and even roof liner materials.
On higher end models including the G-Class SUV, as well as the E-Class, S-Class and AMG-GT, Designo Manufaktur compares directly with BMW’s Individual Manufaktur in offering paint to sample options (including matching the colours offered by rivals such as Porsche), as well as a choice of any paint colour that Mercedes has used in its history.
Upon request, one-off trim pieces and embroideries can also be created similarly to the BMW alternative.
The Designo and Designo Manufaktur processes are complementary to the level of customisation already on offer in Mercedes-Maybach vehicles, which offer their own suite of two-tone paint and extended leather options.
Porsche offers perhaps even more customisability than Mercedes or BMW with its Exclusive Manufaktur program.
In addition to an extended paint colour range, as well as paint to sample and one-off interior colour choices – beyond the over 100 leather and yarn colour choices Porsche claims to offer already) – the company even allows customisation of the wheel rims, with these able to be painted in any colour such as green.
Additionally, materials used for the interior trim pieces, such as wood, can be sourced from a particular type of tree that the customer likes, or have a grain and texture that is matched to a particularly prized possession, such as the customer’s favourite violin.
Porsche claims that its upholstery workshop in Germany can process and refine leather for a thickness of just 0.3-0.4mm, enabling almost any interior surface to be covered by the material (including even the steering column), should the customer wish to pay for it.
In certain cases, the aesthetics of certain components such as the taillight casings can also be modified (for example, from a red to a transparent casing).
In addition to personalised vehicles, Exclusive Manufaktur also develops limited edition vehicles.
For example, the previous 991-based 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series (launched in 2017) was limited to only 500 units globally, and offered touches such as a lustrous Golden Yellow Metallic paint finish for the body and wheel spokes, as well as various carbon fibre accents.