Aston Martin scraps Cygnet city car after dire sales

Tue Oct 8, 2013 11:40am EDT
 
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By Rhys Jones and Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) - Aston Martin ASTON.UL 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 its two-door Cygnet, which started production in 2011 based on the Toyota 77203.T iQ but was marketed at three times the price, had been dropped from the company's line-up after dismal sales of the 32,000 pound ($51,500) vehicle.

Aston had hoped to sell up to 4,000 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 1960s James Bond movies.

"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," said Ian Fletcher, an automotive analyst at research consultancy IHS.

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

European carmakers have recently done well out of producing high-end micro cars. Audi's upmarket A1 supermini is selling well, while Mercedes is considering making a luxury supermini to take on BMW's (BMWG.DE: Quote) 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 program Top Gear and other car websites suggested that Aston ventured into the city car market to help it meet EU targets for fuel emissions and to justify the development of V8 and V12 engines for its high powered cars such as the DB9 and Vanquish models.

Aston Martin was not immediately available to comment.   Continued...

 
The emblem on the grille of the new Aston Martin Cygnet car is displayed on the exhibition stand of Aston Martin during the first media day of the 80th Geneva Car Show at the Palexpo in Geneva March 2, 2010. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse