Thursday, September 4, 2008

Save your pennies, kids. New Aston Marton will cost 1.8 million bucks

Ads for the new $1.8 million Aston Martin coupe say nothing about the car's top speed or horsepower. Instead, they play up a different fact: only 77 of the cars will be built.

The British sports-car maker's marketing pitch is a sign of how being fast and powerful is no longer enough for high-end cars -- scarcity and sticker price (the higher the better) are now what provides the car makers with bragging rights.

Aston Martin's sales pitch for its new coupe plays down performance and focuses on ultra-exclusiveness. Upper-end auto makers have struggled to find a fresh sales pitch since the launch of the Bugatti Veyron in 2005, which set new benchmarks for both power (1,001 horsepower) and speed (faster than 250 miles an hour). Since then, environmental consciousness and a rise in oil prices have blunted the appeal of those attributes.

Aston, famous for its association with the James Bond films, has been coy about the particulars of its new car -- it hasn't even named the vehicle yet. It also has yet to reveal the car's acceleration and top speed.

Aston's one-page print ads show a dimly lit silhouette of a car, drawing viewers' eyes to the Aston Martin logo instead. The only performance details available are that the car will be made from carbon fiber and aluminum -- most of Aston's previous cars have been made from steel and aluminum -- and it will have a seven-liter V12 engine. The ads direct readers to a Website,

Aston Martin's decision to use scarcity to sell the car may be partly out of necessity. Smaller companies such as Aston, which makes only 7,000 cars a year, don't have the same resources as Bugatti's parent company, Volkswagen, which makes 6.2 million cars annually. And building faster cars is expensive: It requires getting approval from the highway authorities in various countries, which in turn requires extensive emissions and crash testing.

While Aston says it doesn't consider the Veyron a competitor, it does appear eager to play in the same league when it comes to price. The standard-version Veyron has a sticker price of $1.6 million versus $1.8 million for the new Aston Martin. Aston's production run of 77 is a fraction of Bugatti's planned run of 300 for standard Veyron vehicles.

That is a radically new price point for Aston Martin. Some analysts question how Aston, if it makes only 77 of the coupes, will be able to generate enough revenue to fund the cost of developing what is essentially an entirely new vehicle. That leads some observers to believe the company may be planning to build more carbon-fiber and aluminum cars down the line.

Aston, which Ford sold last year to an investor group led by a motor-racing entrepreneur who is backed by a Kuwaiti holding company, said it still hasn't made a final decision on when it will begin proding the new cars, though it could start as early as 2009. The print campaign is a "way of finding out about Aston's potential in this end of the market." (info from The Wall Street Journal)

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