The Koenigsegg Agera RS – currently being shown publicly for the first time in Canada at the Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto – is hardly a pillar of practicality.
Its twin-turbocharged, aluminum block 5.0L V8 engine puts out a maximum of 1,341 brake horsepower. It was recorded going from 0 to 400 km/h and back to 0 in just over 33.29 seconds and setting the fastest speed ever achieved by a production car, 447.19 km/h, last November in Pahrump, Nevada.
And thanks to its meticulous build standards and extensive carbon fibre construction, it would cost roughly $2.5 million Canadian dollars if it was possible to buy it at all – the only 25 cars the company will ever build have already sold out.
What drives someone to build the fastest production car in the world?
To conceive of such an achievement, a deeply ingrained passion for cars must naturally be a motivating factor. Christian von Koenigsegg, who founded the company that bears his name in 1994, has that in spades. He grew up dreaming of creating the perfect sports car from the age of 5 after seeing a Norwegian stop-motion film about a bicycle repairman who created a racing car from scratch.
Since then, von Koenigsegg been responsible for numerous automotive innovations, including a hydraulic reactive rear wing, hollow carbon-fibre wheels, memory foam car seats, his company’s signature door actuation system, and a host of engine and suspension improvements.
But to start from nothing and commit one’s life to creating a car so fast, powerful, and efficient at any cost? That requires something more than mere passion.
“I guess I have a large degree of perseverance,” von Koenigsegg told Autofocus. “I realized when I started off that it would be very, very difficult, and I accepted that, even before it was difficult. So, when it became really, really difficult, I was prepared for it.
“There’s a tendency that I’ve seen other, similar start-ups. They seem to be a bit more naïve – ‘oh, this is going to be so much fun.’ And, of course, that’s part of it. But mostly, it’s just a lonely walk in darkness. There are glimpses of fun that you have to enjoy, but then you have to accept the lone walk again. If you don’t, you probably don’t succeed.”
As his self-made career played out, that difficulty took several forms. One of his early challenges was building a company from nothing but ideas and an entrepreneurial spirit. The solution became a family affair.
“My mother was a millinery – she made and designed hats at a hat shop in Stockholm,” von Koenigsegg explained, adding that his parents are both retired and in good health today. “That was her passion, so that’s what she did.
“My father is kind of serial entrepreneur. He started a company, built it up, sold it off or it didn’t go so well, so he’d start another one and that went better. He started things and did things by himself.
“As I grew up, that’s what I saw my parents doing. They did whatever they wanted to do. I wanted to build cars, and when I told them that they said ‘oh, okay, that sounds pretty difficult.’ But after the first prototype was up and running, my father said, ‘you know, maybe you could do this.’ He had sold his company, so then we actually worked together for three years where he helped me on the entrepreneurial side of how to run a company.”
Another challenge that von Koenigsegg anticipated early is that of convincing people to buy one of his cars over those from marques with established cachet.
“When I started out in 1994, I remember saying to myself that I need to have arguments for why someone should buy this instead of a Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Porsche,” he said. “It needs to have unique features and unique capabilities. So, that is kind of ingrained in the DNA of the company, that we need to make something lighter, stronger, better and just fight for every little millimeter and really think things through so that we are, let’s say, beyond competitive to compensate for the lack of a brand and that we don’t have the heritage.
“Doing that for 24 years has taken us to this point where our cars are capable of things that other cars are not because that has been our focus.”
Interestingly, while this drive to do things better comes from within, von Koenigsegg also identifies that his customers contribute significantly to that push to continually raise the bar.
“It’s as much the marketplace driving how extreme the cars are becoming,” he said. “The customers are asking for more and more bespoke solutions, and ‘why don’t you raise this bar and that one?’ ‘Well, that’s going to cost that.’ ‘Well, I will pay for it.’
“If you had asked me 10 years ago if we would sell cars that cost $2.5 million I’d have said that would never happen, and now we’re here. And it’s not that we asked for it. We’re being pushed by our customers to get to this level. It enables us to do some really interesting solutions.”
The car that sees these traits combined to fruition, the record-breaking Koenigsegg Agera RS, is on display at the Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto through Sunday, February 25th.