10 Hot Cars You Can't Have

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- You think having a lot of clout and a big stack of cash will get you the car of your dreams? Get in line, pal.

For each rush-hour racer who simply must have the newest sporty six-figure supercar and each expressway environmentalist who lusts after the latest plug-in hybrid, there are hundreds of others vying for the same vehicle. In a world of 6.8 billion people, overlap is bound to occur.

Despite a more than 10% drop in U.S. auto sales between May and June (still up 14.4% from June 2009), coveted cars are selling out and waiting lists are expanding. Special editions from Ferrari and McLaren and anticipated plug-ins from GM's ( MTLQQ) Chevrolet and Nissan ( NSANY) are longstanding prizes, but more common models from GMC and Ford ( F) have also become precious commodities.

TheStreet scoured the market and found 10 examples of cars that won't be on your local lot, but that investors and early adopters considered worth the wait:

2011 BMW 5 Series: BMW re-released this line last month with a little more pop, offering two 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder engines and a 4.4-liter V8. As a result, the entire line sold out and empty-handed 5 Series fans were placed on a four-month waiting list.

The line turbocharged sales, as 5 Series purchases in the U.S. last month increased more than 40% from June 2009 -- with more than 3,800 drivers paying a base price of $44,550 to $66,200 -- while BMW's overall sales accelerated 14.6% in the same period.

2011 Chevy Volt: They don't know how much it will cost, but more than 50,000 "hand-raisers" have already pledged to buy Chevy's plug-in hybrid. The price (speculated to be around $40,000) means little to the first adopters waiting to get 40 miles on a single charge and itching to install outlets in their garages. The problem is that GM only plans to build 10,000 Volts in 2011 and 30,000 in 2012, which leaves 13,000 hand-raisers sitting on their hands for two years. Yep, that's a two-year waiting list for a car that presents more questions than answers in its first iteration.

"GM doesn't even know how it's going to go with the Volt," says Joe DeMatio, editor of Automobile magazine. "Their goal long term is to launch this technology, continue to refine it, reduce the cost of it and implement it into more platforms."

2011 Nissan Leaf: At least the Leaf's wait list knows what it's getting into: a $32,780, strictly electric car with a range of 100 miles per charge. That's why they're the only ones who can get their hands on one. Nissan closed off the Leaf's wait list in May after 20,000 people worldwide paid $100 apiece for the first crack at the vehicle's initial run. The upside is that this guarantees a private buyer base that understands the Leaf's capabilities and limitations.

The downside is that no one else, including rental, business and government fleets, can get one until 2012. With 13,000 reservations in the U.S. alone, Nissan is using the same approach Toyota ( TM) employed so well when introducing the Prius. It's also drawing similar customers. "They're for the same sort of people who lined up for the iPhone on its first day of release," DeMatio says. "They don't need it, but they want it and they want to make a statement."

2012 Tesla (TSLA) Model S sedan: No, it doesn't come out for two years, but the waiting list for Tesla's $57,400 sedan is already 2,000 signatures deep. Those aren't $100-a-pop hand-raisers, either, as each customer put down a $5,000 deposit to reserve their all-electric four-door that goes from zero to 60 miles per hour in 5.6 seconds and tops out at 120 miles per hour. Tesla's partnership with Toyota, a recent IPO and successful 2010 Roadster that TrueCar.com says is selling for an average of $5,000 more than its MSRP should boost customer confidence.

However, it's the seating for seven, 17-inch touchscreen with 3G connectivity and battery that charges in 45 minutes with a range of 160 to 300 miles that has Tesla fans charged up about the Model S despite production delays. "The two-door has been selling pretty well, but the sedan keeps getting delayed," DeMatio says. "If someone is looking for a car in the next six months, I wouldn't be counting on the Tesla."

2012 Fisker Karma Sunset Convertible: Fisker just loves to make claims: Its Karma has a 402-horsepower engine, it can travel 50 miles on electricity alone, it can recharge its batteries with optional rooftop solar panels, it can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 5.8 seconds, it can hit 125 miles per hour, etc. More than 1,500 supporters have bought into those boasts, fronting the automaker $5,000 per coupe and $25,000 per convertible. Even the Department of Energy contributed a $528 million loan last September to help Fisker along.

Despite this, Fisker is already a year behind on its $88,000 coupe and has only an outside chance of getting its roughly $125,000 convertible on the road by 2012. "The proof is in the pudding, and we haven't seen the pudding," DeMatio says. "Fisker has yet to deliver a car -- and I expect that they will, but they're very much up in the air."

Ferrari 458 Italia, 599 GTB Fiorano and California: You have a couple hundred thousand to spend and a yearning for the Italia and California's big V8s, or the Fiorano's whopping V12? You even have enough cash on hand to drive it off the lot today? Good luck with that. Ferrari doesn't care about your money; it cares about its mark and what you're doing with it and has created a culture that protects the brand from its buyers. They know that the 458 and 599 are hot and have had consistent 18-month to three-year waiting lists. That's why Ferrari is selective.

Though Ferrari will deny it, auto experts say company reps will talk a newcomer into spending $200,000 on the less-popular 612 Scaglietti V12 or buying a used Ferrari before they're even allowed to be considered for "favored customer status" and its access to more attractive models. That's right: If you want to spend $210,000 on the California, $213,000 on the Italia or $320,000 on the Fiorano, you have to bow down to the prancing pony.

"Some people don't want to play this game and feel that if they have $200,000 on hand and want to buy a car, they should be able to do that," DeMatio says. "I understand and sympathize with that, but they may end up in a Lamborghini."

2011 McLaren MP4-12C: A $225,000 supercar is usually a luxury, but in the case of the McLaren MP4-12C, it's a steal. Delivering the 600 horsepower V8 engine and 176-pound carbon-fiber frame of a car twice its price, the McLaren MP4-12C has nearly 3,000 suitors ready to take it home. Some will have a longer wait than others, as the British automaker plans to make only 1,000 in its first year and eventually ramp up production to 3,000 a year. That'll keep the MP4-12C spoken for until at least late 2012 and its 10-second zero-to-124 mph acceleration on a select few roads.

2010 GMC Terrain: How do you go from a race-ready McLaren to a grocery-getting GMC Terrain? Take Main Street, U.S.A. While selling out 4,000-unit run of a six-figure sports car is quite impressive, hitting those sales in a month with a $24,250 car that dealers can't keep on the lot also has its merits. According to Edmunds.com, the GMC Terrain crossover SUV spent a scant average of 13 days on dealer lots from April to June before being sold -- the best turnover rate of any vehicle during that period.

While the Terrain's 22 miles per gallon in the city and 32 on the highway aren't exactly sips, they represent a huge leap from the 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway mileage of the GMC Envoy it replaced. "When gas prices go up and people stop buying SUVs for a little while, we always remind people that, given the choice, Americans will always buy the bigger car," TrueCar analyst Jesse Toprak says. "The biggest change this time, though, is a preference for car-based SUVs like the Terrain that bring in better gas mileage, styling and handling."

2011 Ford Mustang: Woe to the poor souls who couldn't wait a year for the 2011 Mustang. The new Mustang's retail sales last month spiked 37% compared with a year earlier, thanks largely to improvements in horsepower and fuel economy. For one, the Vanilla Ice-endorsed 5.0-liter engine is back and produces a whopping 412 horsepower while achieving 17 miles per gallon city and 26 on the highway.

The little V6 version, meanwhile, has a lot of brawn (305 horsepower vs 315 for last year's V8) while using only 19 mpg in the city and roughly 30 mpg on the highway. Starting at $22,000 to $38,000, the 2011 Mustang is a high-powered parable for patience.

2011 Ford Fiesta: When Ford Spokesman Ken Czubay announced in February there were already 6,000 people in line for this tiny, tech-heavy Euro import, it was clear Ford had a hit on its hands. Less than a month into its availability, TrueCar.com says the Fiesta is selling for only 0.3% less than its nearly $14,000 MSRP. Though Ford has scaled that waiting list number back to 2,000, Fiestas became an even tougher get after the company announced Wednesday that damaged railroad tracks in Mexico would delay Fiesta shipments by 10 days.

With its Bluetooth and digital media player compatibility through Microsoft's ( MSFT) SYNC, as well as a claimed 29 miles per gallon city and 40 highway, the company "created a lot of buzz over the last couple of months for this vehicle," Toprak says. "It is considered a good value for the price point, gets good gas mileage and, at the same time, is considered both hip and stylish, which is hard for automakers to pull off."

-- Reported by Jason Notte in Boston.


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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet.com. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent.