May 18, 2012

Aston Martin To Revive Lagonda SUV For China Market

Luxury SUVs Like Bentley Falcon & Lamborghini URUS Expected To Attract Chinese Buyers

Aston Martin Lagonda SUV concept (Image: PR)

Just a few months after Aston Martin CEO Ulrich Bez told media that his company was considering bringing its ultra-luxury Lagonda SUV Concept back into production, the British automaker has announced that it will indeed revive the nameplate, but will market the vehicle primarily in China. Perhaps heartened by recent debuts of luxury SUVs at the Beijing International Auto Show by competitors Bentley (with its EXP 9 F concept, also referred to as the “Falcon”) and Lamborghini (with its URUS), as well as the impressive sales recorded in China by Porsche for its Cayenne Turbo S, Bentley said this week that it will create a second-generation Lagonda concept next year with a production model to emerge in 2014.

Despite a tepid public reaction to the initial Lagonda concept upon its first appearance in Geneva in 2009, the stronger reaction in China to statuesque, gas-guzzling SUVs compared to super-GTs like Aston Martin’s DBS has major automakers convinced that the future in China is more about bigger bodies than bigger engines. As IHS Automotive analyst Colin Couchman said this week, China alone won’t be able to get supercar makers back to pre-recession levels, as they continue to struggle amid sluggish demand from traditional markets like Europe and the US. This is because China’s market, at the top end, is weighted more towards elongated sedans and SUVs than flashy (and compact) sports cars. From Autocar:

“Although the Chinese market remains buoyant, that won’t feed through to Aston because the Chinese don’t yet see the value of displaying their wealth through owning an expensive sports car.”

So with sales of super-GTs only trickling along, it’s easy to see why supercar makers are turning to SUVs, which are proving much more resilient to the recession. That’s particularly because they can be used every day in countries like China, India and Russia, where poor road infrastructure can make a low-slung two-seater impractical.

It’s why Lamborghini recently showed its £150k Urus concept in Beijing and why Bentley will give the Falcon the go-ahead this year.

Lamborghini URUS at Auto China 2012 (Image: Zandie Brockett)

Looking to catch up to fellow countrymen Bentley and Rolls-Royce in the China market, where both continue to record strong sales and are expanding rapidly in inland areas, Aston Martin recently debuted a localized “Dragon88″ line of V8 Vantage S, Virage and DBS models and has taken to Sina Weibo in a larger marketing push. Though it’s a relative newcomer to the market, Aston Martin has had a good run since 2009, selling a record 190 vehicles in China last year, double its sales in 2010. Looking to tap growing demand for ultra-luxury autos even as other auto segments show signs of a slowdown in China, Aston Martin recently opened its largest national showroom in Shanghai, and has new showrooms slated for Chongqing, Shenyang and Ordos.

We’ll have to wait and see whether the revived Lagonda proves to be a shortcut to greater appeal among wealthy Chinese drivers than localized efforts like the Dragon88. Considering Chinese consumers seem to be increasingly weary of dragon-festooned “special edition” items by brands across the luxury spectrum, it’s probably a smart move for Aston Martin to focus more on promoting its upcoming SUV — a product for which Chinese demand truly exists.

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Tag: aston martin, auto, beijing auto show, bentley... , More
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