Aston Martin, the maker of sports cars favored by Prince Charles and driven by James Bond, is dropping the Cygnet city car following lackluster sales to refocus on models more geared to their traditional customers.
“Cygnet production will end this year,” Sarah Calam, a spokeswoman for the Gaydon, England-based manufacturer, said in an e-mailed statement late yesterday. The model is based on Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)’s iQ subcompact.
The hand-stitched leather interior and Aston Martin badge were not enough to persuade customers to pay 31,000 pounds ($50,000) for the model, more than double the price of the iQ, which provided the engine, transmission and frame. Demand for the model was about 250 a year, according to IHS Automotive. The carmaker’s sales target was at least 1,500 annually.
Aston Martin, which unlike rivals isn’t backed by a larger auto manufacturer, aimed to keep down development costs by working with Toyota to bring the model, built in about 12 months, to market two years ago. Since then, London-based investment firm Investindustrial purchased a 37.5 percent stake and laid out plans in January to spend 500 million pounds in the next four years on expansion.
Aston Martin is seeking to double sales by 2016 with new models and widen its dealer network outside Europe. The British manufacturer may invest in a sport-utility vehicle to broaden its appeal among wealthy drivers, a person familiar with the plan said last month.
“The Cygnet project was a failure and it doesn’t make sense to keep on producing the model as the premium city car market in Europe isn’t performing well at all,” said Pierluigi Bellini, an analyst at IHS Automotive in Milan. “Dropping the Cygnet while planning an SUV to expand outside Europe makes much more sense.”
The super-car maker plans to appoint a new chief executive officer before the end of the year, while current CEO Ulrich Bez, who has led Aston Martin since 2000, will probably become a non-executive chairman, the person said.
Investindustrial Chairman Andrea Bonomi said earlier this year he wants to expand Aston Martin’s lineup while establishing partnerships to limit the cost of developing models. The U.K. carmaker signed a deal in July to obtain engines from the AMG high-performance division of Daimler AG (DAI), owner of Mercedes-Benz. Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler will receive a 5 percent stake in Aston over time, depending on the progress of their technical partnership.
Aston has a target of boosting annual sales to about 7,000 vehicles in 2016 from about 3,400 cars in 2012, with growth propelled by catering to growing demand in Asia, North America and South America, the person said last month.
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