Monday, November 12, 2012

Luxury car manufacturers losing the plot.

I think there's some sort of collective neuroses going on in the luxury car segment at the moment. I was hoping the Porsche Cayenne would be a one-off; a flight of fancy from a designer soon to be sacked for perpetrating such a crime on the world of motoring. But sadly no. More luxury car makers are getting their feet wet in markets they have no business being in. First the Cayenne, now the Panamera - can there be a more pointless car for Porsche to make? A front-engined, 4-door saloon? Buy a Camry or a Fusion if you want one of those. They're a fraction of the price, much less likely to be stolen, have better warranties and are far more practical. It doesn't stop with Porsche though. Now we face the prospect of Lamborghini losing their marbles. For whatever reason, the Audi-owned purveyor of all things hypercar, makers of the Reventón, Murciélago, and pant-wettingly gorgeous Aventador, have decided they need to build a bloated, badly-handling, poorly-designed, ugly-looking SUV. The Urus (I'll spare you the picture, you can google it) is a really odd way to go for Lambo. I know most SUVs never go off-road but for $200,000 I'm pretty sure the most dirt a Urus will see will be the dust settling gently on it whilst parked on Rodeo Drive. Not wanting to be left out, Bugatti are getting in on the game with their 16C Galibier - essentially a four-door version of the Veyron. $1.4M for a four-door "family" car? Seriously?
But all of this pales in comparison to what's happening at my favourite maker of exotica - Aston Martin. DB9? DBS? Vanquish? V8 or V12 Vantage? Yes please - any and all of the above. But the Rapide? Why in the name of all that is handbuilt and peculiarly British would Aston want a 4-door sedan? Is it because they're copying Porsche? Are they jealous of the Panamera?
The answer to all the above stupidity of course lies in the vast inequality of wealth in certain countries. In the US, where 9% of the population have 90% of the wealth, it's hardly surprising people want to squander their money on expensive toys to be used as status symbols. "Oh honey - the Ford Escape is just too common. We simply must do better than that - I wouldn't be seen dead in anything less than a Cayenne." Where rich suckers and their money are easily separated, car makers know they can make serious bank. Porsche, Aston and Lamborghini know these vehicles are pointless but then they know the people they're selling them to are equally stupid. And if you can make a fast buck off someone, that's what capitalism is all about right?