Aston Martin gets “smart”
Aston Martin has struck a ground-breaking deal with Toyota to launch a version of the Japanese-built iQ commuter car, badged Aston Martin Cygnet and built at Aston’s Gaydon, UK factory.
The new model, officially billed as a concept, is expected to be offered for sale before the end of next year. It will instantly become the world’s smallest super-luxury car and represents Aston’s most radical model departure in the firm’s 90-year history.
According to Aston Martin CEO Ulrich Bez, the car is specifically aimed at the one-third of existing Aston owners who also have a Mini-sized car.
“This concept is akin to an exclusive tender for a luxury yacht,” Bez told Autocar. “It allows us to apply Aston Martin design language, craftsmanship and brand values to a completely new segment of the market.”
The project began when Bez met Akio Toyoda (Toyota Motor Co’s new president) while the pair were racing at the Nurburgring 24 Hours several years ago.
The Cygnet uses standard mechanicals and proportions of Toyota’s 57-mpg iQ (which is not currently sold in the U.S, but is under consideration to be imported in the near future, possibly as a Scion model), but with different wheels and tires. The engine choice has yet to be finalized, but it’s likely to be the iQ’s 97hp 1.3-liter, four-cylinder motor rather than the base three-pot unit.
The Cygnet’s new exterior, which at the front combines an all-new Aston grille with standard iQ lights, has been devised entirely by Aston’s design group, led by Marek Reichman. The luxurious all-hide interior, also designed by Aston, uses the existing cabin’s instrument pack and architecture, but new colors and trim materials give it a new look said to be much more luxurious than the standard iQ’s.
The Aston Cygnet will be built at 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 current Aston models. The projected price of the car is £20,000 ($33,000) – about twice the asking price for an iQ.
Aston Martin expects to build between 1000 and 2000 Cygnets per year, with the 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; they will initially be offered only to existing Aston owners and new sports car buyers, almost as an “option” on their order sheets.
Bez, who describes Toyota as the world leader in volume manufacturing, 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. 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 providing hybrid powertrains for future Astons, for example. But each is quick to commend the other as a quick-acting and friendly partner. Both parties believe future co-operation will depend squarely on the success of this project.