Aston Martin Cygnet

By any measure, this is not an attractive car.  It’s interesting, but I’d suggest it’s not attractive.  What’s surprising is that it’s from the company renowned for making perhaps the most beautiful cars in the world. It’s intended to go into production next year.

My first reaction is to think that this is completely at odds with the Aston Martin the world knows, a brand that, since its recent resurgence, seems entirely about making cars that are defiantly big-engined, fast and expensive, in the process flipping the bird to environmentalists, speed-camera advocates and poor people.  (In fact Aston Martin doesn’t flip people the bird. Aston Martin flips people the pheasant.)

Which makes we want to react badly to the Cygnet.  It’s so resoundingly not Aston Martin. It’s small and responsible.  But it is nicely designed, and not without a certain, ugly-duckling style (reflected in the nicely self-deprecating name for the model).

But I think it’s a brilliant idea.  Because you can only buy a Cygnet if you already own an Aston Martin.  It’s being sold on the basis that it’s what Aston drivers will use for short journeys, with their ‘real’ car only brought out when the trip justifies it.

Which I think is inspired on two levels.

One is that in this day and age, even Aston’s core market must be starting to struggle a little with the enviro-carnage wreaked by cars of its ilk.  While I’d imagine that most of that market doesn’t exactly find itself wracked with guilt, lying awake of a night on its 1000 thread count sheets, it does still feel the occasional pang.  And using the Cygnet a couple of days a week assuages that guilt, but it does it, importantly, in a very public way.  Because, at the risk of being more than a little cynical, the problem with so much ‘offset’ behaviour is that no one knows you’re doing a good thing. And while public approbation shouldn’t be a motivation, it resoundingly is, and driving a Cygnet makes the gesture public.

The other is that I bet the Cygnet will acquire a degree of snob value even greater than that of the ‘real’ Aston Martin.  The Cygnet basically says that you are rich/successful enough to own an Aston Martin, but secure/unpretentious enough not to need to drive it.  Which is a delightfully public display of understatement (like the deliberately frayed shirt collars that I’m told are very popular with the English aristocracy).

So the Cygnet is effectively Aston Martin’s offset programme – you offset your environmental impact, and your conspicuous consumption, in one very public gesture. Brilliant.

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About Philip O'Neill
Too much time spent thinking about clothes, advertising and music. And golf.

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