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Good try, but Cygnet didn't fly

2013-10-09 09:21

FRESH OUT OF THE NEST: This was the Aston Martin Cygnet back in October 2011 but even the very rich baulked at paying R500 000 for a city car. Image: Newspress

James Bond's automaker, Aston Martin, tried hard to make its Cygnet fly but buyers gave it the bird and now the R500 000 city car project has crash-landed. Here's why...

LONDON, England - Aston Martin has abandoned its attempt to tap into the popularity of so-called city cars after selling fewer than 150 of its "Cygnet" model, an embarrassing blow to the struggling 100-year-old British luxury sports car maker.

A source close to Aston Martin said the two-door Cygnet, which started production in 2011 based on Toyota's iQ but was marketed at three times the price, had been dropped from the company's line-up after dismal sales of the R515 000 minicar.

'ASTON GOT IT WRONG'

Aston had hoped to sell as many as 4000 Cygnets a year to environmentally conscious city dwellers thought to be keen on a small, easy to park, luxury vehicle but buyers were put off by the Cygnet's high price, particularly since it lacked the characteristic performance of a brand that achieved fame with the DB5 sports car featured in 1960's 'James Bond' movies.

Ian Fletcher, an automotive analyst at research consultancy IHS, said: "The Cygnet was intended to catapult the brand into a new market but, at roughly double the price of many competing cars in that segment, it was misjudged by Aston Martin.

"The premium supermini market is a good place to be at the moment but Aston got it wrong in thinking putting a grille and a fancy interior on what was basically a Toyota iQ would make people buy it."

HIDDEN AGENDA?

European automakers have recently done well out of producing high-end micro cars. Audi's upmarket A1 supermini is selling well; Mercedes is considering making a luxury supermini to take on BMW's successful Mini. Research consultancy IHS forecasts some 594 000 city cars will be sold across Europe in 2013 and expects this to grow to around 803 000 by 2020.

However the popular BBC TV show 'Top Gear' and other car websites suggested that Aston ventured into the city-car market to help it meet EU targets for the brands fuel emissions and to justify the development of V8 and V12 engines for its high-powered cars such as the DB9 and Vanquish.

Aston Martin was not immediately available to comment.

Read more on Wheels24 about the Cygnet.
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