ASTON Martin has sparked an unexpected war of words after claiming it was resetting the luxury benchmarks with this week’s stunning Geneva Motor Show concept – and it is rival Rolls-Royce that’s taking up the fight.
Aston wowed this week’s motor show with the Lagonda Vision Concept, a study in design that would one day spawn “a new range of state of the art, emission-free luxury vehicles” for the high-end British sports car marque.
“Lagonda aims to be the world’s first zero-emission luxury brand,” it said.
That was enough for a rush of blood in the boardroom of uberluxury rival Rolls-Royce, which overnight cleared its throat, loosened the bowtie and called for parchment and a quill to craft a press release that reminds the world that it had already set the same goal long before Aston Martin arrived late to the garden party.
The release doesn’t name Aston Martin directly, but the timing of Rolls’ wrath, a day after Aston’s concept reveal, makes it pretty clear that the rivalry is real. “Two years ago in 2016, Rolls-Royce rewrote the rulebook for the future of true luxury mobility by presenting the Rolls-Royce Vision Next 100 – codenamed 103EX – a radical vision of effortless, autonomous, connected, spacious and beautiful luxury mobility, as personal as each individual customer,” it pitched in.
The press release then recruits Rolls-Royce chief executive Torsten Müller-Ötvös to weigh in with a stern finger-wagging directed at Aston. “When we revealed 103EX to the world in 2016, Rolls-Royce set the agenda for the future of luxury mobility,” he says. “Since then it has become clear that other car brands have acknowledged our vision, so much so that they have adopted most aspects, apart from the most visionary and radical.
“Rolls-Royce’s vision in 2016 was, and remains, all-electric, completely autonomous, completely bespoke mobility – coupled with ultimate luxury.” Ouch.
What follows Müller-Ötvös’s words are is a tribute to navel-gazing about how the brand aims to stay at the top of the tree as the “preferred marque of the most discerning, wealthy and powerful patrons in the world”. The release climaxes with a description of the 103EX’s “clamshell canopy” doors that allow occupants to step down from the the wood, silk and wool-clad cabin without having to duck their heads.
But before Rolls-Royce signs off on the release, there’s one more parting shot from the brand’s design director, Giles Taylor: “Rolls-Royce rejected the notion of mass-produced, carbon-copy modes of mobility two years ago with the launch of 103EX because of our intimate understanding of our customers’ thinking and their demands in the future,” he said.
The spat erupted in the lead-up to the Geneva Motor Show after Aston Martin Lagonda design chief Marek Reichman hooked into the state of affairs at the high end of town.
“Rolls-Royce and Bentley are Ancient Greece today,” he told British car website Autocar. “I worked on the original Phantom. The brief was Buckingham Palace on wheels. It was important to do that to establish it. But the world has changed, and the royals have changed.”
Over to you, Andy Palmer.