Part 2: Such a good idea…. In the first part, we looked at the evolution of luxury cars from technology leaders to technology chasers, prompted by the demise in 2020 of Bristol cars. The illusion of the profitable luxury vehicle build at a profit still brings in victims, like fish on a hook…..
Towards the end of the 2000s, even major icons like the Mercedes-Benz S class no longer stood alone but were supported with shared tooling / engineering costs from larger volume models. Less than a decade ago many of this super luxury brands became hopelessly unviable without the backing of a major brand, making following fashion (that is the hopes and dreams of potential customers) difficult. A new model? Out of the question. A warmed-over older model? Let’s see what the investors and banks think about that….
During the early 2000s the large 4×4 market began to gain greater mass market popularity, building on the ideas laid down by Jeep in the 1960s with Grand Wagoneer and Land Rover with Range Rover. Most of the makes likely to be able to charge north of £100000 did not have the cash for the vital new vehicles to access this highly profitable sector. Chicken and egg.
Porsche, with the benefit of hindsight, calculated that a Volkswagen Touareg shorn of its rather dull exteriors, and equipped with a sumptuous interior combined with a mix of carry over as well as unique powertrains would allow more than twice the retail of the original product without twice the costs. Add to the mix the genius of a truly ugly exterior, and hey presto! Success. Porsche even charged for features that were standard on the cheapest Toaureg. Even a V10 diesel Touareg could not eclipse a bi-turbo V8 Porsche Cayenne. Oddly, neither did the mad V12 Audi Q7.
This was noted all over the world. Within the Volkswagen Group Bentley and Lamborghini lobbied to build a super ‘Cayenne’, where they could charge up to four times the price of a Touareg. The Bentley Bentayga showed how clever marketing and the right amount of in-house build could get a whole new raft of customers. Volkswagen Group deliberately allows the Lamborghini project to slip, so that Urus when it appeared would get it’s chance to shine.
With the exception of Lamborghini Urus, which uses a co-developed Audi biturbo V8 engine, the Cayenne and Bentayga have engine options unique to the brand as well as shared Volkswagen Group engines. Naturally most customers end up buying a vehicle powered by a Volkswagen Group engine, which helps profitability (‘kerching’).
Meanwhile BMW Group raided the parts bin and chucked cash as Goodwood to come up with the unforgivably ugly Cullinan. Capable, yes. As pretty as a diamond from that famous mine in South Africa? No.
Does it have a V12 engine unique to Rolls-Royce? Oh, yes. It’s all about the brand, and having the backing from BMW Group to pay for the vital engineering which is required to deliver a modern ‘out of this world’ experience. Just don’t look at the outside without a welder’s shield.