By on March 8, 2018

Image: Aston Martin

Aston Martin is pretty damn pleased with itself, having just debuted a futuristic and luxurious electric car concept in Geneva — one it says will attract the next generation of ultra-well-heeled motorcar buyers.

The Lagonda Vision Concept previews a real-world car scheduled for production in 2021, with another to follow by 2023. Bearing a re-launched brand name long associated with the Aston marque, this Lagonda coddles its passengers in a Blade Runner-esque shell that’s outfitted like one of those sexy, Roger Moore-era James Bond escape pods. There’s cashmere and silk. Savile Row tailors were brought in to handle the upholstery. Quite simply, it’s the future of motoring, Aston Martin claims, so you’d better get used to it.

Filled with unbridled enthusiasm over his new creation, Aston design chief Marek Reichman got a little personal during an interview with Britain’s Autocar. Let’s just say his target, now aghast, is having none of this nonsense.

“It’s a game changer for luxury products in the future, what luxury can be and what it will be. The world is changing, but look at luxury: it’s still very traditional. Luxury and technology haven’t been combined yet,” Reichman said of the Lagonda concept.

“Look at Rolls-Royce: it’s the most luxurious car in the world. Given its roots, its reason for being, it’s essentially still an internal combustion engine to replace a horse, a carriage and a trunk. It’s an imperfect package for luxury.”

Now you’ve gone and done it, Marek.

Image: Aston Martin

As Lagonda was once an ultra-premium standalone brand, dating back to 1906, the executive feels that resurrecting it to take on Rolls-Royce and Bentley is only natural. This time, however, the returning challenger has a supposed ace in the hole: technology.

To hear Aston CEO Andy Palmer tell it, “Lagonda exists to challenge that thinking and prove that being modern and luxurious are not mutually exclusive concepts.”

Well, modern luxury and technology is just fine and dandy, but one does not simply go around insulting upper-crust British automakers. Speaking to the Financial Times, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars CEO Torsten Müller-Otvös went on the warpath against Reichman and his company.

Aston Martin has “zero clue” about luring wealthy buyers, Müller-Otvös said. Reichman’s drive-by was “highly unprofessional,” he continued, no doubt envisioning a bout of fisticuffs in the garden.

If Aston Martin wants to go after our customers, he suggested, good luck.

“They really don’t understand our segment, they really don’t understand the customers,” the chief executive said. “They are in a complete different league on pricing, they have zero clue what’s going on in the upper, upper segment, zero. I am sorry to be so blunt.”

Müller-Otvös mused that, up until now, both brands enjoyed an “amicable” relationship. Then, after getting his two pence off his chest, an olive branch.

“There is room in the market for the three great British brands [Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Aston Martin] to exist side by side.”

Image: Aston Martin

As you’ve no doubt guessed, plummy upper-class arguments between automakers gives us a little thrill, and well it should. Once upon a time, this could have let to pistols at dawn. All of that aside, it’s interesting to see Aston Martin not only spawn a new division and return a storied name to the market, but to do so with such a risky product.

Aston Martin clearly feels there’s a subset of the extreme upper class that’s capable of being lured by futuristic luxury, but we somehow doubt it’ll be the Eton- and Oxford-educated, wood-panelled drawing room type. Time will tell who wins this schoolyard scrap.

[Images: Aston Martin]

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36 Comments on “One Does Not Simply Tell Rolls-Royce How to Sell a Car...”


  • avatar
    IBx1

    Look at how pathetically short that hood is for something that calls itself a Lagonda. That’s no longer than the plebian hood from a Honda Fit.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “they have zero clue what’s going on in the upper, upper segment, zero. ”

    Proud words for a company that exists to sell matte purple Wraiths with black wheels, “Starlight” headliners and BMW engines to new money types in China and the Middle East.

    • 0 avatar

      OUCH

      Truth hurts.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      My thoughts exactly. Maybe Aston really doesn’t understand the new super rich, and their more “eccentric” tastes in luxury style.

    • 0 avatar
      baconator

      Yeah, this is nearly 100% bull. I *do* occasionally meet people that have Rolls-Royce money and think of Aston Martin as a notch below Rolls / Ferrari. But they frequently still have an Aston somewhere in the garage, because they can.

      Rolls Royce knows that they are up against a Tesla-style value proposition here. People in this segment are buying novelty, technology, and conversation pieces. Electric propulsion is a perfect differentiator. It also enables an interior design (flat floor etc.) that Rolls will have a hard time duplicating.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    If we overlook the Taraf, just how much more advanced/futuristic/risky is this vehicle than the previous Lagonda?

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I’d infinitely prefer to have the 70’s/80’s Lagonda, preferably before they rounded all the edges off. I’d drive it with it’s gas sucking V8 roaring with two middle fingers raised to the Environmentalists.

  • avatar
    xpistns

    Is that some Mazda I see in that front grill? It is!

  • avatar

    I really don’t like that design, it’s pretty much a mess. And I agree the A-M swipe at R-R was unprofessional.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    “Palmer, Andy Palmer. License to put my foot in my mouth, from Her Majesty”

  • avatar
    Ermel

    One of the ugliest cars I’ve seen recently. And that’s saying something. By comparison, the grotesquely oversized and absolutely bonkers BMW M8 Gran Coupe or whatever it’s named appears almost subdued.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    The way the roof panel opens to maximize ease of entry into the back seat suggests to me that this is intended more to be a “drive me” car than a driver’s car. The problem is that this is the least limousine-like car I can imagine. Rolls might actually know something about this segment.

  • avatar
    scott25

    Love this concept, I love how it brings back the wedge, and how AM is imbuing everything that wears the Lagonda name with overt 80’s-ness.

  • avatar

    The latest models are better looking, aesthetically more refined, but I’ve thought all of the BMW era Rolls-Royces have been vulgar and ostentatious, not classy at all. Just about displaying wealth. “They are in a complete different league on pricing, they have zero clue what’s going on in the upper, upper segment, zero,” only reinforces that image.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      The Silver Shadow, Corniche, Silver Spirit and to a degree the Phantom VI and Phantom VII were also about conspicuously displaying your wealth.

      Certainly not about motoring excellence. Except for the last mentioned, Buicks of similar model years generally offered equal or superior driving dynamics and certainly better reliability.

      • 0 avatar
        conundrum

        Driven a few Rollers, have you Arthur? You know, just for comparison?

        I’ve only been in three myself, and one was a ’34 convertible.c Still, as I experienced the rides, all the time I was thinking, hey!, Fred’s Buick LeSabre is as good as this! Now if GM could actually put the trim on straight, show even panel gaps especially on the hood, use actual leather and something better than indoor/outdoor carpeting, give it a real decent paint job, etc, why this Buick could be a Roller!

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          Actually yes. In particular a two year old Silver Shadow that The Old Man’s best friend won in a poker game. Got to drive that quite a bit.

          Can’t remember one person that we drove in that vehicle who was not disappointed by it.

          And despite your dismissive remarks, Buicks of that era unfortunately for RR, generally drove better.

          And Lincolns and Cadillacs often had far more luxury appointments.
          Lincolns also had a much quieter ride.
          The American vehicles were even often more technologically advanced. For instance Lincoln had an ABS system available by the early 1970’s.

          Rollers of that era were strictly a branding experience.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Forgot to add that anyone with any experience of vehicles of that era would know that American luxo barges, were often bigger, heavier and had larger and more modern engines than Rollers. The Silver Shadow had a magnificent 189 hp when it ceased production.

            And even pseudo luxury marques like Buick had available thick pile ‘shag’ style carpeting.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            I believe one of the automotive mags did a test of big ol’ luxury sedans back in 1965.

            Cadillac came out on top and RR may have been dead last.

          • 0 avatar
            conundrum

            Arthur, persons of a certain age such as myself (70) had many a ride in Detroit-mobiles in the 1960s. Thousands, probably. Drove dozens. So no pulling the wool over my eyes.

            The absolute worst was a ’69 Lincoln, which we engineering students greeted with hilarity. It bottomed out, waddling side-to-side, merely clambering over the curb cutout into the parking lot. It was rubbish.

            Oh, I know Ford spent countless ad dollars telling us the ’65 Ford was quieter than a Roller. Etc. Etc.

            None of the big Detroit cars had anything but solid rear axles and few had disc brakes. Rolls had independent rear and discs. The RR V8 came out in the fall of ’59, and was never given a power rating, since RR never did that. It was also all-aluminum, and its descendants are still being made and fitted to some VW Bentleys. So you got that one wrong. It was newer than the Buick nailhead for 1960, that’s for sure.

            You seem to have elevated the fat Big 3 cars of the ’60s onto some astral plane of excellence that is wholly undeserved in my experience. They were poorly assembled and handled badly. They did have twirl-a-whirl power steering, though and leaned nautically at thr mere hint of a curve. Not that I think a RR was super magnificent either. A branding exercise though? That’s a stretch.

            Try your line on someone else who wasn’t around 50 to 60 years ago, was a car enthudiast, and also rode in the same iron and found it badly wanting. Fine, you loved them, I didn’t, but to make definitive statements that a Buick was better than a Rolls is ridiculous.

            Since you will need to have the last word, please have at it. I’ll just chuckle. I used to have the exact same arguments with people then, and I see the rearguard is still promoting revisionism.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @Conundrum: Principal Dan is correct. There were a number of reviews comparing various cars in the 1960s and 1970s and at least one ranked Buick above RR.

            But other than that, I actually drove all of the above.

            Your remark regarding indoor/outdoor carpeting illustrates that you were using hyperbole and emotion to colour your impressions.

            For example the famous diamond cutting commercials were not from 1965.

            Horsepower ratings for Rolls engines are widely available. The L410 engine as used in the 21st century was extensively modified. The Ford Windsor V8 small block was also used from 1962 until the beginning of this century. The big block for 30 years and both were newer developments than the L410.

            Lincolns had ABS systems from 1971.

            And Rollers were anything but reliable.

            But don’t take my word for it. Try driving around in one. There are plenty available in different livery stables. You too will leave the rose tinted glasses behind. And if you actually get behind the large, thin wheel of one you will be even more disappointed.

            Not to say that the luxo barges of the D3 were perfect cars. But in many respects they were better than a Roller.

            You only ‘purchased’ a Roller to say that you had one. An exercise in branding/image only. A great many ‘celebrities’ from Derek Sanderson to Wally Crouter, to Gordon Sinclair have written similar comments about the disappointment of their Rolls-Royce experience.

            And you obviously don’t want to hear about my DB4 experience.

      • 0 avatar

        There’s conspicuous, and then there’s ostentatious.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      No one is really catering to the stealth-wealth market anymore, at least not in that league. The most expensive such car might be the Genesis G90.

  • avatar
    Stanley Steamer

    Neither understand the luxury buyer in the age of self driving cars. If my car will drive itself, it won’t be a car. It will be a tall roomy van with loads of space inside with space for large screens and a bar, perhaps a kitchenette. Why not use the technology to do something that requires this kind technology to begin with, such as maneuver a large vehicle through small spaces with millimeters to spare. I can bring my electric roving living room to downtown London without a hint of stress. Now that’s luxury.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      By that logic, Mercedes could (nay, should!) build a Sprinter Maybach. In reality, such a thing sort of exists, by independent builders for the very small niche that finds such a thing appealing.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      I disagree. Image is a big deal for a lot of these buyers, moreso than comfort or whatnot.

      I have a friend that owns a couple of ferraris. He daily drives an older civic, but he can’t tell people that publicly… they’ll think less of him!

  • avatar
    Tstag

    Lagonda are being cunning. If they tried to make a Rolls Royce result could be a Maybach. So don’t make a Rolls Royce they imagine Lamborghini tried to make a Rolls Royce…. Personally I like it as for young rich people it’s not got an old man vibe

  • avatar
    facelvega

    The three great British car brands- Bristol, Caterham, and ginetta

  • avatar
    arach

    I’ve always thought cadillacs biggest fault was trying to beat BMW at its own game.

    Aston Martin is SPOT ON here.

    They can’t beat Rolls Royce at Rolls Royce’s game…

    The beauty of it is they are smart enough to see that and realize they can compete with… or even beat Rolls Royce (profits or sales) by playing a DIFFERENT game… by being what they refuse to be.

    there are some buyers who ARE lured by technology. If they chase Rolls at their own game, they will always be “number 2” (or 3), but if they play a different game, they can be number one IN THAT GAME. Then if people shift more towards technology, they get massive customers.

    Its totally the right strategy.


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