The DBS may be Aston Martin’s flagship sports car, but it’s in a market segment that shows little sign of significant growth. That’s why the firm has explored the launch of an SUV by reviving the Lagonda nameplate on a super-luxury 4x4.
Although the design shown at Geneva in 2009 didn’t meet with critical acclaim, the Lagonda project is very much alive and Aston boss Ulrich Bez has recently alluded to an updated Lagonda concept “in the coming year”. A second Lagonda model, a saloon, has already been mooted.
Bentley’s £150k-plus ‘Falcon’ concept will have also encouraged Aston; the Lagonda and Falcon are similarly brutal and statuesque.
Both British SUVs will go a long way to better exploiting demand in the Chinese market, where the appeal of super-GTs like the DBS is limited.
“The DBS sells in a global market segment that is struggling to rebound back to where it was, and that’s largely down to China,” said IHS Automotive analyst Colin Couchman.
“The traditional markets for supercars — the US and Europe — are still depressed,” he added. “Although the Chinese market remains buoyant, that won’t feed through to Aston because the Chinese don’t yet see the value of displaying their wealth through owning an expensive sports car.”
IHS figures show — based on models in the £160k to sub-£200k bracket — that the global super-GT coupé market won’t recover to its pre-recession high of just over 9200 units in 2008 until 2014 at the earliest. That’s despite the launch of the successful Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG in 2010, a car that has expanded global sales by about 2700 cars a year.
The global popularity of Merc’s second luxury coupé — the AMG-tuned CL — shouldn’t be underestimated, either. It accounts for about a quarter of the market, vying with the £178k Ferrari 458 for the title of best-seller. A new CL AMG is due to arrive in 2015, potentially giving the segment a welcome nudge upwards.
The DBS coupé operates in a more exclusive, niche position, peaking in 2009 with 691 units and 2010 at 824 with the Volante. The coupé has averaged 475 cars a year over the past five years, which is just five per cent of global sales in the super-GT coupé segment. Even its nearest price rival, the Lamborghini Gallardo, takes about twice that, according to IHS.
So with sales of super-GTs only trickling along, it’s easy to see why supercar makers are turning to SUVs, which are proving much more resilient to the recession. That’s particularly because they can be used every day in countries like China, India and Russia, where poor road infrastructure can make a low-slung two-seater impractical.
It’s why Lamborghini recently showed its £150k Urus concept in Beijing and why Bentley will give the Falcon the go-ahead this year.
It must be no coincidence that the Falcon is tipped to start at about £150k, so top-end models will nudge £170k-£180k, the sweet spot where the DBS, 458, CL AMG and SLS models converge.