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end European brands seek a share of Geneva auto show's spotlight

Time:2018-03-13 23:31Turbochargers information Click:

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end European brands seek a share of Geneva auto show's spotlight

Geneva's hits and misses

GENEVA — European luxury brands such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Aston Martin used last week's Geneva auto show to make a splash at the top of the luxury market dominated by VW Group's sprawling yet integrated empire of upscale brands.

At times, it got ugly, even if the cars were anything but.

Their problem is not just competing against Audi, Porsche, Bentley or Lamborghini, but the combined firepower of all four.

"The VW Group has a huge advantage over other European luxury automakers in terms of the breadth of its luxury portfolio," said Ian Fletcher, principal automotive analyst at IHS Markit. "They have an unsurpassed ability to share key technologies, which allows these brands to enter spaces that they may not have had the resources to do alone."

For example, Bentley, the largest global ultraluxury brand, used Porsche's V-6 plug-in hybrid technology to launch its first electrified model: the Bentayga Hybrid SUV.

Porsche, meanwhile, showed a crossover concept based on its Mission E electric sedan, which arrives next year on an EV platform developed with Audi. That platform is also expected to be shared with Bentley.

"As electrification becomes more popular, we're going to be faster and more ready than any competitor," Bentley's new CEO, Adrian Hallmark, told Automotive News. "That's the advantage of being able to access technologies from which we can pick and choose."

Audi used the show to unveil its high-tech A6 sedan, built on the Audi-developed next-generation MLB platform that will be picked up by other VW Group brands. "If they would need it, no problem. I don't mind that. We are a big family. We trust each other," Audi chief Rupert Stadler told Automotive News.

VW Group CEO Matthias Mueller saw only upsides to this sharing across brands. "We earn more money, we are faster and we have more power than our competition," he said. "The customer gets a technology that is well proved for good money. What could be better?"

Upper-luxury efforts

At Geneva, BMW, Daimler, Aston Martin and Jaguar Land Rover tried to counter the VW Group's brand width in an effort to further expand into the profitable upper luxury segment.

BMW launched the Concept M8 Gran Coupe, a muscular yet svelte four-door version of the forthcoming 8-series coupe and convertible that will push pricing up to Porsche Panamera and even Bentley Continental GT levels. "Our strategy will focus on the luxury segment, where there are margins to be earned," BMW CEO Harald Krueger told shareholders last year at BMW's annual meeting.

end European brands seek a share of Geneva auto show's spotlight

Mercedes expanded its AMG line with the AMG GT 4-Door Coupe, a rival to the Porsche Panamera.

Mercedes took a big step in expanding its growing AMG luxury sports brand by launching the stand-alone AMG GT 4-Door Coupe, another Panamera rival.

"They saw that the Panamera Turbo was selling like hotcakes so they decided to do something against it, and now BMW is doing the same," said Christoph Stuermer, global lead analyst at PwC Autofacts. Mercedes is also expanding Maybach as an ultraluxury trim level on the S class after it failed to ignite as a stand-alone brand.

At Land Rover's new, vastly larger stand at Geneva, the brand experimented with an unprecedented leap into Bentley pricing territory with the Range Rover SV Coupe, a low-volume two-door SUV selling for £240,000 ($333,000) in its home U.K. market.

Aston Martin's splash at Geneva was perhaps the most dramatic of the lot. It commandeered the vacant stand traditionally used by General Motors for its former Opel brand to show off the electric Lagonda Vision Concept, a radical yet elegant limo that launched Lagonda as a stand-alone electric brand designed to take on Bentley and Rolls-Royce.

end European brands seek a share of Geneva auto show's spotlight

Aston Martin Lagonda Vision Concept


Aston CEO Andy Palmer asserted the advantages of being independent when competing against VW Group. "I'm sure I don't have the cost that they have, I'm sure it doesn't take me years and years to get approval and I'm sure the cars don't all look the same," he said.

That last comment was a shot at VW Group's weak spot in its luxury platform strategy: design compromises.

"You amortize the whole thing much, much quicker but there are geometric constraints. Why, for example, does the Bentley Bentayga look odd to my eye?" said Max Szwaj (SVAY), Aston's chief technical officer. The Bentayga and the Lamborghini Urus SUV are the two highest-profile users of VW's MLB Evo platform, which is also shared with the Audi Q7 and the redesigned Porsche Cayenne and VW Touareg.

BMW's Rolls-Royce has developed its own platform for this very reason. It craves exclusivity.

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