Aston Martin has struck a ground-breaking deal with Toyota to launch a £20,000 version of the Japanese-built iQ commuter car, badged Aston Martin Cygnet and built at Aston’s Gaydon works in Warwickshire.
The new model, officially billed as a concept, is expected to be offered for sale before the end of next year. It will initially be sold only to existing Aston Martin owners and those with cars on order, but after an introductory period it will then go on general sale.
It will instantly become the world’s smallest super-luxury saloon and represents Aston’s most radical model departure in its 90-year history.
According to Aston CEO, Dr Ulrich Bez, the car is specifically aimed at the one-third of existing Aston owners who own a Mini-sized car. “This concept is akin to an exclusive tender for a luxury yacht,” Bez explains. “It allows us to apply Aston Martin design language, craftsmanship and brand values to a completely new segment of the market.”
The ground-breaking project, which has been under discussion for several months, began when Bez met Toyota’s Akio Toyoda, the newly appointed president of Toyota Motor Co and grandson of its founder, while the pair were racing at the Nurburgring 24-hour.
The Cygnet uses standard Toyota iQ mechanical components and proportions, but with different wheels and tyres. It is believed that both the iQ’s punchier 1.3 litre four-cylinder engine is the most likely be offered.
The Cygnet’s new exterior, which at the front combines an all-new Aston grille with standard iQ lights to impressive effect, has been devised entirely by Aston’s Gaydon design group, led by Marek Reichman.
The luxurious, all-hide interior, also designed by Aston, uses the existing cabin’s instrument pack and archiecture, but new colours and trim materials give it a new look, much more luxurious than the standard iQ’s.
The Aston Cygnet will be built in Gaydon, using iQs built in Japan and specially imported to the UK for the purpose. The Gaydon factory has a flexible layout that would allow a Cygnet finishing line to be installed without disruption to present Aston models.
Aston Martin expects to build between 1000 and 2000 cars a year, with earliest cars earmarked for sale in the UK and Europe where the iQ has won a five-star NCAP safety rating. Cars will be sold exclusively through Aston dealers.
Aston insiders concede that adding the car to its range will have benefits for the company's average carbon dioxide emissions, but stress that this isn't the motivation for building the Cygnet.
Ulrich Bez, who describes Toyota as the world leader in volume manufacture, wants to offer the Cygnet to existing Aston owners “as a unique combination of opposites, and a novel transport solution”.
In the longer term, the car could sell in markets well beyond Europe, if demand is established. It is even possible that cars which left Japan as iQs could eventually be taken back as Cygnets — at more than twice the price.
The participants in the Cygnet project are silent about its implications for further model co-operation — about Lexus, for instance, providing hybrid powertrains for future Astons. But each is quick to commend the other as a quick-acting and friendly partner. Both believe future co-operation will depend squarely on the success of this project.