Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Incredible Shrinking Brand

Aston Martin, the legendary British automaker whose DB5 was the car of choice for James Bond, announced recently that it will be marketing a new city car badged Cygnet, that strays about 5,900 miles away from its heritage of long, low, sexy designs. And while the only things that this car shares with traditional Aston Martin design are the winged badge and the iconic grille, even more troubling is what's under the skin.

This car is nothing more than a Toyota iQ with a facelift and a redesigned interior. Using the same engine, same suspension, transmission and other mechanicals, Aston Martin will sell the Cygnet for $35,000, $15k more than the Toyota. Apparently the geniuses at Graydon are not automotive historians. Back in 1981, GM tried the same tactic by taking a Chevy Cavalier and after adding leather seats, a new grille and badge, rolled the Cadillac Cimarron into the world. How'd that work out for them?

This exercise falls into the "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should" category of product development. If Aston Martin wants to create a small, efficient city car for its customers and to help improve its CAFE rating it should do so. Not buy technology from another company and try to pass it off as their own. Consumers aren't that dumb and they never were.


  1. Mom had a Cimarron way back when. Piece of crap. Even a toddler could tell it was a Cavalier with leather seats and shiny trim. A big step down from the 1977 Sedan DeVille. Maybe they got it because my brother tore off the side view mirrors trying to get that boat on wheels into the garage when he was 16. At least it was easier to park.

  2. Well, in Aston Martin's defense, these cars are only going to be available to people who already own an Aston Martin. So those who are afraid of the brand losing some of its equity, it's not as bad as it seems. And they wouldn't have been forced to do this in the first place if the CAFE standards weren’t as unrealistically strict as they are. Don’t get me wrong, we all need to do our part to help the environment. But really, making a company like this waste money by creating a car just to lower its fleet average is incredibly wasteful. And if the car is only going to be available to Aston owners, do you really think they’re going to want to buy a rebadged Toyota to toot around town in? Unlikely.