Forget Sports Cars, SUVs Set to Dominate Super-Premium Luxury Market

Utility vehicles likely to be best-sellers for brands like Aston Martin, Bentley, Lamborghini, even Rolls-Royce.

by on Aug.24, 2016

Lamborghini first revealed the Urus SUV concept at the 2012 Beijing Motor Show.

They’re both known for their high-performance sports cars, but when Aston Martin and Lamborghini launch two of their most critical models ever, both in 2019, the focus of the two brands will shift to sport-utility vehicles.

If all goes according to plan, those two models, the Aston Martin DBX and the production version of the Lamborghini Urus concept, will generate at least 50% or more of their sales. But that’s far from precedent setting. Best known for sports cars like the 911 and the Boxster, it’s the Cayenne and Macan SUVs that already generate the biggest sales numbers for Porsche.

Insight!

Super-premium utility vehicles are “going to be the hottest segment in the luxury market,” said Simon Sproule, the chief marketing officer for Aston. “As with the mainstream market, that’s what people want to drive.”

(For more on the DBX and the rest of Aston’s new products, Click Here.)

With the exception of Land Rover, a dedicated SUV manufacturer, Lincoln was the first luxury brand to test the waters for a high-line utility vehicle, the Navigator. Cadillac quickly followed with its Escalade. But it was Porsche that truly defied typecasting – and which pushed the concept into new territory with the Cayenne, a model that can run well into six figures in its highest-performance, most well-equipped versions.

The concept version of the Aston Martin DBX. The production model will go with four doors.

Now, the movement is even more up-market, as some – make that most — of the world’s most exclusive premium luxury brands add utility vehicles to their line-ups. Bentley recently rolled onto the market with its big Bentayga, and it is expected to quickly become the maker’s best-selling model generating close to 10,000 sales annually.

Maserati is also launching its first-ever SUV this year, and it expects to sell as many as 30,000 of the new Levante models annually – roughly doubling the brand’s global sales.

“These days, if you ask buyers, more and more associate luxury with functionality,” says Enrico Billi, the Levante’s product manager.

Of all the major super-premium automotive brands, only Ferrari has resisted the temptation to add an SUV, though analyst Joe Phillippi, of AutoTrends Consulting, believes “the pressure” to boost sales and earnings with a ute may eventually wear down management’s reluctance.

That’s already happened at two rival sports car brands. Aston Martin is going so far as to add an all-new assembly plant for the DBX – a concept version of which first debuted at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show. The production model is likely to generate more than half of the 10,000 annual sales Aston is gunning for by the end of its current six-year plan.

Range Rover has moved into the super-premium range with offerings like the SVAutobiography.

(Tesla Model X SUV gets nearly 300 miles range with new P100D battery. Click Here for more.)

It’s much the same for Lamborghini, a brand best known for its extreme performance and distinctly angular designs. Calling it a “big game-changer,” Lambo CEO Stefano Domenicali told the Reuters news service, “We will push like hell” to sell at least 3,500 SUVs annually. The maker has put a cap of 3,500 on its annual sports car build.

Lambo has already invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the project and will share at least some underlying components with other brands owned by parent Volkswagen AG. The Italian maker, meanwhile, intends to more than double the size of its plant and headquarters operations in the Modenese suburb of Sant’Agata Bolognese.

Even Rolls-Royce is getting into the act, though it is referring to its upcoming model as a “sport-activity vehicle,” a term shared with the British marque’s German parent, BMW.

Porsche set things in motion with the debut of its first SUV, the original Cayenne.

Some observers question whether there’s a market capable of absorbing all the new models. But others believe there will be plenty of demand, as Porsche has already seen.

David Sullivan, a senior automotive analyst with consulting firm AutoPacific, Inc., expects many traditional Aston, Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce buyers will simply park add an SUV to their existing luxury car fleets.

And, “a lot of he demand is going to come from china,” adds Sullivan. “And even if the mainstream market cools there, there’s still going to be huge demand for high-end SUVs.”

(Click Here for a look at the exotic new Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 concept.)

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