One Does Not Simply Tell Rolls-Royce How to Sell a Car
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.
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.”
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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