30th June 2009

Aston Martin’s mini-car plans are madness

posted in Car News Articles |

The press release reads like it should have an April 1 dateline.

Aston Martin, one of the world’s most exclusive luxury brands, plans to build a tiny city car based on the underpinnings of the Toyota iQ.

The car, to be badged the Cygnet, will sell for about $40,000, pitting it against the likes of the Mini Cooper S.

After almost a century of building some of the most desirable sports cars on the planet, it seems the British brand is showing signs of senility.

If allowing a three-cylinder Toyota to wear an Aston badge isn’t diluting the brand, then I’m not sure what is. And calling it a Cygnet – a baby Swan – just begs for ugly duckling comparisons.

The car is officially just a concept at this stage but it appears certain to enter production before the end of 2010.

Aston says it is aimed at the one-third of customers who currently turn to other makers – including Benz offshoot Smart and BMW’s Mini – for a city runabout. It will initially be sold to current Aston Martin owners only, but after an introductory period, it will go on sale to the wider public.

The car’s interior will be draped in exclusive cowhide and the exterior will have Aston styling cues, making it the equivalent of a set of matching luggage for the well-heeled DB9 owner. It actually looks pretty good, but the driving experience promises to be as far removed from the Aston tradition as a two-bob watch is from a Rolex.

Aston’s CEO Ulrich Bez is upbeat about the project, saying it will bring Aston design and craftsmanship to a new buyer, offering them a “unique combination of opposites”.

But what will existing Aston owners think about the fact that any Tom, Dick or Harry can get their hands on an Aston for $40,000?

This is without doubt one of the most radical – and risky – strategies adopted by a carmaker in recent memory. Admittedly Porsche does toy cars, Ferrari has made a lawn mower and Lamborghini a tractor, but an Aston Martin shopping trolley just doesn’t seem right

What do you think? Is the Cygnet a lame duck or stroke of marketing genius? Has Aston lost its marbles or boldly reinvented itself? And, most importantly, would you buy a Cygnet?

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