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Monday, June 29, 2009
Last year, the European Union parliament passed a new law requiring car makers to meet a fleet wide average C02 emission of no more than 130g CO2/km. Under the European Union directive Regulation (EC) No 715/2007, the average CO2 emission of all the new passenger cars from each manufacturer registered in Europe in one calendar year must not exceed 130g CO2/km. The new regulation will come into for force by 2012 and manufacturers who fail to meet the target will be charged "excess emissions premium" penalty.
Manufacturers of supercars and luxury cars are of course finding it difficult to meet this target, since all their models are of the large polluting variety. Independent manufacturers producing less than 10,000 cars a year can apply for exemption but their case is evaluated on a case by case basis. Even so, these manufacturers are required to provide a target to reduce their emission.
The CEO of Aston Martin Dr. Ulrich Bez have been a very vocal critic of this new rule, arguing that the new rules are politically motivated and it is not fair to supercar makers like Aston Martin. While he acknowledges that supercars release a lot more CO2, but realistically they are driven a lot less than ordinary cars and their actual exhaust emission a lot lower and the environmental impact is negligible. Plus, handcrafted supercars are a dying art that needs to be preserved. Although Aston Martin is now an independent manufacturer (no longer part of Ford's Premier Automotive Group), it still produces a lot more than 10,000 cars a year and thus not be eligible for exemption. Aston Martin produces 10,000 DB9s alone in one year, which is still 3 times more exclusive than Porsche 911's annual run of 30,000 units. So in any case, Aston Martin is in a tight spot. And now you understand why Porsche, Ferrari and even Lamborghini have started talking about hybrids?
Vehicular emission only constitute 12% of all CO2 emission in Europe and the car industry is just an easy target to EU bureaucrats. The airline, power generation and other heavy manufacturing industry need to shoulder their share of the cost as well.
More pictures at AutoCar UK.
Bitching aside, Dr. Ulrich Bez knows very well that it is futile to fight the EU parliament. His team at Aston Martin have got down to business immediately and the Aston Martin Cygnet "luxury city commuter car" is the result (picture above). The car is still in concept stage but production plans have been confirmed. The Cygnet is essentially a restyled Toyota iQ with a bespoke front sheet metal. All internal mechanical bits are carried over from the Toyota iQ. Sales will begin next year at an estimated 23,000 Euros (Toyota's iQ sells starts from 12,700 Euros in Germany). Planned annual production volume for the Cygnet is 2,000 units per year. The Cygnet will be first offered to those who are ordering a new Aston Martin or existing owners of Aston Martin cars. Look's like it's a way of saying
a) If you love Astons and want to continue buying them, please help us by buying this small minicar.
b) We are charging the emission cost to you by selling you this minicar along with your DB9.
The Cygnet is the result of a collaboration between Aston Martin and Toyota Motor Co. Without a small minicar to lower it's average emission, Aston Martin will have no chance of surviving beyond the next decade, not because it can't sell enough of DB9s and V8 Vantage, but because it cannot appease those EU bureaucrats who travel in their Bentley limousines. So much for C02 emission reduction eh...
Aston Martin builts a Toyota...what is the world coming to? Fanboys and adolescent forum posters will have field day with this. But at the end of the day, the opinions of these people don't really matter. What's important is whether can potential buyers of Aston Martin see the reason behind this "additional cost" for their DB9 or V8 Vantage. Watch this space, Aston Martin will not be alone. There will be many more "blasphemous" cars coming out within the next few years, electric / hybrid Ferraris, Porsches, Lamborghinis etc. It's a simple matter of progress with the current time and climate. So grow up, adapt and stop looking at the world with nostalgic rosy tinted lenses and bitch about how things were. Companies that survive well will be those who are able to seize this chance to upset the establish automotive hierarchy. Tesla is one such good example.
Under the agreement with Toyota Motor Co., TMC's subsidiary Toyota Motor Europe NV/SA in Belgium will manufacture the Cygnet under contract for Aston Martin and the unfinished car will be sent to Aston Martin's plant in Gaydon, UK for final assembly and customisation for each individual customer.
What I find interesting is that this piece of news came not long after Akio Toyoda, the new maverick semi-pro racer cum President of Toyota spoke very highly of Dr. Ulrich Bez after the duo's recent participation in the ADAC-Nurburgring 24-Hours race in their respective company racers - the Lexus LF-A protype and Aston Martin V8 Vantage N24. Bez and Toyoda have been regular participants in the race since 2007 and they are the only 2 car company Presidents / CEO in the world who are also race car drivers of their own company racers. Maybe the two did more than just racing in Nurburgring...
As I was typing this a thought came to my mind - which do you respect more? A car company CEO who strikes business deals in dinky little karaoke bars served by women of questionable repute, fat cats who spend more time chasing their small white balls across the green in their electric golf carts. Or someone who chases something else in a different sort of green - the green hell, as the Nurburgring is known (according to ex-Formula One world champion Sir Jackie Stewart) and then starts a business relationship there. No wonder Akio Toyoda is nicknamed by the Japanese press as the "Prince" (as in Prince of the Toyoda empire). He is the new darling of the Japanese automotive business media, after Carlos Ghosn jetted in and turned around Nissan nearly 10 years ago. Carlos Ghosn is so popular that he has his own comic manga character. But I doubt if Akio Toyoda is interested in that. Still, seems like an interesting story is unfolding.
Posted by AutoIndustrie at 9:01 PM