Driving Torque

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Archive for the month “November, 2010”

Who’s an ugly duckling? The Aston Martin Cygnet

 

English: Aston Martin Cygnet at AutoRAI Amster...

English: Aston Martin Cygnet at AutoRAI Amsterdam 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many months ago, Aston Martin announced plans to produce a ‘luxury micro car’ in the UK and Europe, it’s based on the super frugal Toyota IQ, prices will start at around £30k and it will be called the Cygnet, not really a name to set the pulse racing, is it?

Having checked it wasn’t April 1st, I, like many others set about creating all manner of insults and jokes about what appeared to be the mother of all sell-out jobs. Of course, there had to be more than met the eye and there was. The EU in their infinite wisdom had invented a new set of emission regs to be enforced from 2012. They basically stated that each car manufacturer’s models in production must on average meet specified emission targets. The end of the supercar you may think but not necessarily. You see, marques such as Ferrari and Lamborghini are owned by parent companies i.e. Fiat and Audi and they produce economical little city cars in much higher numbers which will counter balance the likes of the 599 and the Gallardo, thus meeting the targets. This presented a minor problem for Aston though, no longer owned by Ford, they had no counter balance and were facing something of a dilemma.

I recently had the pleasure of a chat with a bona fide AM mechanic and inevitably the subject of the Cygnet came up. I expressed my disproval and he told me tales of the outright disgust many AM owners had displayed on the topic, many worried about  the brand being cheapened and some even contemplating abandoning Aston altogether. For some reason, this hit a nerve with me and I now feel an irresistible urge to defend the poor little thing.

It doesn’t take an expert to see that Aston Martin are reacting to an unwanted situation with this car. They’ve been backed into a corner by the EU and are coming out fighting, in my eyes, in a very clever way. The Cygnet is a necessary evil, a means to an end so why waste precious millions on it’s development when the same end can be achieved by sticking your badge on a product that someone else has thrown millions at? And don’t worry Mr Merchant Banker, the cleaning lady is unlikely to turn up in one as AM are only offering them to existing customers to allay your fears of the brand being irreparably cheapened

Unless they’ve been living on Mars for the last two years, even AM owners must have some inkling that the planet’s finances aren’t quite what they should be. In these days of cuts and deficits, ever increasing numbers of people will look upon the supercar as a vulgar, even grotesque display of opulence and wealth. That companies such as Porsche are posting record profits must only go further to nurture feelings of resentment against groups deemed responsible for the economic downturn i.e. bankers etc. I feel enraged that these people who are lucky enough to own the likes of AM are concerned about cheapening the brand when they should actually be thanking their lucky stars that these luxury car makers exist at all anymore.

So put simply Aston man, the Toyota IQ will sell itself, day in day out. Without some help from the Cygnet, your DB9’s, Rapides and Vantages will disappear forever. Think about it.

By Ben Harrington

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News

The Craggy Island Milk Float

News 10 November 2010

London Mayor Boris Johnson has unveiled plans to install 1300 electric car charging points across the capital by 2013.

Johnson said, “Already there are more electric drivers in London than anywhere else in the UK, but we are now entering an incredibly exciting period in electric motoring. Major manufacturers are gearing up to launch more affordable, practical electric cars over the next few years, whilst the cost of traditional fuels are making petrol-free driving an increasingly attractive option.

The project, named Source London was devised earlier this year with a projected 25,000 charging points being in operation by 2015. This shortfall is believed to be due to cost-cutting strategies.

What happens when you run out of electricity though? If one becomes stuck in the notoriously dense London traffic, frantically searching for one of the few charging points that not only made it into production but is also vacant, a fuel warning light could spell disaster. It’s not as if you could grab a jerry can and sprint to the nearest dispensing point to buy a few kilowatts is it?

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