Part 3: The final
In parts 1 and 2 we looked at the rise of the luxury brands, how technology over-took them and subsequently were absorbed into bigger companies to allow luxurious vehicles to be created from the profits of humble vehicles, or for the brave few, look out into the huge financial storms and hope for the best. This idea was prompted by the complete demise of Bristol Cars in 2020.
Just over a decade ago Aston Martin Lagonda (AML) decided to get into the luxury off-road market. The leadership of Dr Palmer knew how to get a huge multinational organisation like Renault-Nissan to build things like Qashqai as well as Juke, and applied the same logic to AML. The difference was huge. Renault Nisan had a vast array of suppliers, major assemblies and more to draw upon in the pursuit of fashion, but AML did not.
The result is the DBX, a vehicle which does use an evolution of Mercedes-AMG powertrain but otherwise is pretty well unique bumper to bumper – and is apparently a rather good too. DBX sells into the same market as Bentley Bentayga, which had already parked on that particular lawn way back in 2015, so there was no real way to pass on the additional costs to customers who would not see the justification. Bigger investment and higher component costs than the competition, but similar retail price. Oh, that looks like a winner!
AML has had so many near death experiences, but keeps finding enough people in love with it’s aura to revive it. However, it rarely had the type of backing that Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini, Bentley or Ferrari have enjoyed.
The cautionary tale to the luxurious off-roader is straight forward. Low volume vehicle manufacture has to rely on using assemblies which are simply too expensive to develop alone, and to put those assemblies together in ways not imagined by the original manufacturer. A major manufacturer is not going to make an Aerial Atom, Morgan (3 or 4 wheel) or Lotus any time soon. That’s where the super precious UK sector survives, which is the envy of the world.
So, there’s the ‘Black hole’ awaiting anyone trying to revive a brand to then build either replicas of past models or to strike out in a new direction. As the backers of the Grenadier project have found, making vehicles is a very, very expensive process. Resurrecting a Land Rover Defender replete with multiple water leaks straight off the end of the assembly line was never going to be easy.
Bristol Cars, RIP.
Bugatti, now in its third incarnation, is for sale, by the way. Offers only, No tyre kickers.