The Toyotafication Of The British Sports Car Brands

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Aston Martin’s decision to sell a worked-over Toyota iQ has raised some serious questions for “brand values” advocates across the internet of late. Does an aristocratic sportscar brand need to take on the problems of urban congestion and carbon intensity? Does the Cygnet’s noblesse oblige PR value outweigh the furor of countless Aston Martin aspirants at the thought of their beloved brand becoming a glorified Toyota tuner house? The answer to both of these questions is apparently yes…

But Aston isn’t the only elite British sportscar brand being tempted by Toyota. Lotus, which has taken flack for its mainstream turn, has long used Toyota engines for its lightweight Elise and more recently in its V6-powered Evora. In fact the upcoming Elite will share the hybrid V8 engine from the Lexus Ls600h and a forthcoming replacement to the SC. The funny part: instead of rebadging a Toyota, Lotus designed its own Giugiaro-styled take on the Cygnet’s “city car” concept (with “fantastic” results according to TTAC’s Martin Schwoerer). Now Lotus’s owner Proton wants to build it for the Indian market (while hinting at a Lotus-branded European version… someday), but there’s only one problem: no engines. And though Toyota won’t mind sharing its 600 hp+ flagship hybrid V8 with Lotus, it won’t help the British-Malaysian concern sell city cars. Unless, of course, they’re rebadged iQs.

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  • Syke Syke on Oct 18, 2010

    I've got a bad feeling that Aston Martin is, if anything, a step ahead of everyone else. Given governments desire to turn all cars into small, efficient, non-polluting, non-consuming transportation modules; I can easily see a day (in my lifetime) where the Cygnet would be THE Aston Martin. Period. And an equivalent of the 695 Tributo will be designed and built by Ferrari, and be the REAL Ferrari. Size, weight and mass are the biggest enemy of government-demanded efficiency, and every manufacturer is going to be eventually forced into that kind of car. Yes, that means 3-cylinder, bi-turboed Corvettes, what will be called the Porsce 911 will probably only have 2 to 4 cylinder hanging out the back, and Lamborghini's that are no longer 4-wheeled overcompensations. Or at least a completely different definition of overcompensation.

  • Zackman Zackman on Oct 18, 2010

    Now that all of our cherished ideas of what we think that a (name your favorite car here) should be, the reality is what we've seen these last many years and will continue to see in the future. This reminds me of the ridiculous debate that a front-wheel-drive Impala is not a "real" Impala. That's ludicrous. Car makers will do what they feel they must do to survive, and so what to the small, enthusiast contingent that demands legacy design elements to its legacy names (I still miss true hardtops, myself). Progress is progress in someone's eye, and if those are the ones making the decisions, so be it. The marketplace will determine the winners and losers. It sure hurts to say that.

  • Faygo Faygo on Oct 18, 2010

    This is about meeting customer's needs. Aston thinks (rightly) that many of their customers are not going to want to drive their big Astons into/around the city all the time. they know their customers are loyal to the brand, ergo they decide to offer them something which will allow them to fly the flag while being more practical. I agree that Aston probably did the math and decided that they risked less damage to their brand (and left themselves an infinitely easier engineering/investment challenge) by going with an effectively coachbuilt iQ rather than investing heavily in hybrid tech for their performance cars. their customers will no receive the direct benefit of reduced taxes and running costs that a hybrid would bring, but running costs and CO2 taxes are not really first priorities for buyers of ultra-luxury performance cars in the first place. Porsche has pointed the way towards a hybrid supercar in the 918 and Jag with their recent concept and I'm sure others will follow, but the next GT3 isn't going to be a hybrid, regardless of how much greenwashing they do with the extremely cool but completely production impossible KERS-based ALMS/Le Mans hybrid racer. the fact that Toyota happened to offer the best starting point for the Cygnet is in indication of the inherent quality of the iQ's design. it's really an extremely clever piece of engineering. while a nice car, the Fiat 500 isn't really _that_ special, and a warmed-over Ferrari red version seems a far more cynical prospect.

  • Trend-Shifter Trend-Shifter on Oct 18, 2010

    This is an example of bean counter mentality looking for short term solutions. Adopting the Toyota platform & body for the Cygnet will ultimately destroy the brand. Look for lower pricing power and lower margins in the long run. They need to "go it alone" and only use bits & pieces of the Toyota drivetrain & suspension, maybe even the platform. However, the entire body & interior must be all Aston without anything that can even be remotely connected to an existing Toyota. Otherwise they will just be another tuner shop.