O'Brien will be replaced by Leno, whose 10 p.m. prime-time show is being canceled after lagging ratings and complaints from NBC affiliates who said Leno's show provided a weak lead-in to their late newscasts.
"The good news is until NBC yanks us off the air, we can pretty much do whatever we want and, this is the best part, we can do whatever we want and they have to pay for it," O'Brien explained before introducing the car. "So for the rest of the week we're going to introduce new comedy bits that aren't so much funny as they are crazy expensive."
When it comes to the bit's price tag, however, the comedian may have been off by $1 million or so. New York-based entertainment lawyer Steve Gordon told ABCNews.com Thursday that existing agreements between NBC and music licensing companies would allow the "Tonight Show" to play "Satisfaction" at no additional cost for a live or time-delayed performance.
If the show were to be rerun, he said, NBC might have to pay $25,000 to $50,000 for the song's use to its owner, Abkco, which owns much of the Stones' early work. If a clip of the song were used on the Internet, he said, a similar or greater fee could apply, assuming Abkco allowed permission for its use.
As for the Bugatti -- O'Brien called it the most expensive car in the world, and he's likely right. Car research Web site Edmunds.com lists the price for the 2009 Bugatti Veyron model at $1.99 million.
But the show didn't actually shell out any money to put an earlier model of the Bugatti Veyron on air. The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles told ABCNews.com Thursday that it lent the show its 2006 Bugatti Veyron for free.
The show "contacted us and we decided it might be a good thing to help out," said museum information and marketing manager Chris Brown.
The car -- which, like the 2009 model, is valued at roughly $2 million -- had been in museum storage most recently but it is now back on display.
"Being we are as close as we are to Hollywood, we do like to have vehicles on the silver screen and small screen on display," Brown said. "To have a car like this that's recently been on TV, it's a good thing."
Even if "The Tonight Show" had to pay for the car, the price for its temporary use could be in the five-figure range. Luxury car rental service Beverly Hills Rent-a-Car, for instance, charges $25,000 per day for the rental of a Bugatti Veyron.
After weeks of wrangling between "Tonight Show" host O'Brien and NBC, the network announced Thursday that it and O'Brien are officially parting ways.
"Under terms of an agreement that was signed earlier today, NBC and O'Brien will settle their contractual obligations and the network will release O'Brien from his contract, freeing him to pursue other opportunities after September 1, 2010," NBC said.
The network said that Leno, who previously hosted the "Tonight Show" from May 1992 to May 2009, would return to the program on March 1.
"We're pleased that Jay is returning to host the franchise that he helmed brilliantly and successfully for many years," Jeff Gaspin, the chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment, said in a written statement Thursday. "He is an enormous talent, a consummate professional and one of the hardest-working performers on television."
O'Brien reportedly won't be allowed to take his best-known characters and skits with him when he leaves NBC.