Britain’s Aston Martin is performing ‘ahead of the market’ in GCC

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Clockwise from above: The DB11 V8 Coupe; the V12 version of the DB11; and the car’s steering wheel and dashboard.
Updated 29 October 2017
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Britain’s Aston Martin is performing ‘ahead of the market’ in GCC

LONDON: British car manufacturer Aston Martin recently launched the DB11 V8 Coupe to the world media in Catalonia, Spain, hoping to attract younger drivers and expand its customer base toward a sales target of 5,000 cars.
Earlier in the year the company unveiled the V12 version of the DB11, which is now one of the top Aston Martin models in the Gulf region. This is the first time that Aston Martin has introduced two engine variants for the same model.
The V8 version is some 115kg lighter and $17,000 cheaper than the V12. Arab News tested both cars and both have their merits. For sheer power, nothing beats the V12 while the V8 offers lighter handling, more balance and top agility. The ratio of production has been confirmed by the company at about 60 percent for the V8 and 40 percent for the V12. The V12 is likely to be stronger in the US and Middle East markets.
The company took this unpreceden­ted step to avoid punitive taxation for larger engines in some markets, such as China. The new V8 will not reach the regional markets until late 2017, according to Christopher Sheppard, the CEO of Aston Martin in the MENA region.
Sheppard admits that the regional GCC markets have been down by 33 percent while Aston Martin managed to outperform the markets by 44 percent. He is hoping to repeat this success in 2018, especially after launching the company’s own financial services. He confirmed to Arab News that every Aston Martin within the range will use hybrid technology within a decade. His advice for people choosing between the two DB11 versions is to test-drive both and make a decision themselves.
These are the highlights of the interview:

Which AM models are best-sellers in the GCC region?
The new DB11 V12 is proving to be very popular but the interest in this car has created greater sales volumes right across the range.

Which is the largest AM market in the region?
The UAE is our largest market, which equates for about 43 percent of the high luxury sport (HLS) market.

Has the current climate of political tension and economic uncertainty affected Aston Martin’s operations in the region? And how are you dealing with the situation?
The market is down about 33 percent across the GCC in the HLS segment but I’m very pleased to report that Aston Martin is performing 44 percent ahead of the market. We have also just launched Aston Martin Financial Services, so we are now able to arrange tailor-made financial solutions to suit our customers’ requirements and circumstances. I’m optimistic that Aston Martin will now achieve greater growth this year and throughout 2018 and beyond.

Has AM got any plans to introduce alternative energy vehicles to the region in the foreseeable future (such as the electric Aston Martin Rapide)?
Yes, Aston Martin is embracing electric technology with a pledge that every car in its range will use hybrid technology within a decade.

What makes AM cars unique among other sports and super cars from the UK and Italy?
At Aston Martin we create beautiful, hand-built and hand-crafted cars which can be used every day — they’re not just suitable for use at the weekend. Our cars are incredibly comfortable to drive when our customers are in the mood to cruise and relax but they are also fantastic fun to drive when our customers want to put them through their paces. There’s nothing quite like the sound of an Aston Martin exhaust note while cruising downtown or out on the open road. When you purchase an Aston Martin you’re not only buying a beautiful car, you’re also buying into a luxury lifestyle. More and more customers from other competitive brands feel that experience when they visit our showrooms or get behind the wheel of one of our cars.

What segment of consumers in the region is the DB11 V8 targeting? And how well do you expect it to do vs. the V12?
Both the V12 and the V8 drive and handle beautifully, so customers will decide their preference when they get behind the wheel.
Some of our competitors have been very successful with V8 derivatives within their model ranges, so there’s clearly a strong appetite for this size engine within the segment, and we would urge these customers to test-drive both the DB11 V8 and the DB11 V12 to make the decision and assess the Aston Martin difference themselves.

When is DB11 V8 due in the regional markets and what is the regional price in dollars? Have you received any advance orders?
We’ll see the first V8 Coupes arriving from sold orders in late Q4 2017 and V8 Volantes in early 1Q 2018. The RRPs for the V8 Coupe start at $220,000.


Audi launches electric SUV in Tesla’s backyard, with assist from Amazon

Updated 18 September 2018
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Audi launches electric SUV in Tesla’s backyard, with assist from Amazon

SAN FRANCISCO: German luxury car brand Audi on Monday staged the global launch of a new electric sport utility vehicle on the home turf of rival Tesla Inc, and highlighted a deal with Amazon.com Inc. to make recharging its forthcoming e-tron models easier.
The Audi e-tron midsize SUV will be offered in the United States next year at a starting price of $75,795 before a $7,500 tax credit. It is one of a volley of electric vehicles coming from Volkswagen AG brands, as well as other European premium brands including Daimler-owned Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volvo Cars and Jaguar Land Rover.
All aim to expand the market for premium electric vehicles and also to grab share of that market from Palo Alto, California-based Tesla, which has had the niche largely to itself.
“I want Audi to be the number-one electric vehicle seller in America over the long term,” Audi of America President Scott Keogh told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who is also head of rocket company SpaceX, planned to mark the e-tron launch occasion by staging a SpaceX event in Los Angeles at roughly the same time on Monday evening as Audi’s unveiling.
Audi and parent Volkswagen are using the US launch of the e-tron SUV in mid-2019 to take aim at one obstacle to expanding electric vehicle sales — the lack of convenient ways to recharge their batteries.
Audi will partner with online retailer Amazon to sell and install home electric vehicle charging systems to buyers of the e-tron, the companies said on Monday. Amazon will deliver the hardware and hire electricians to install them through its Amazon Home Services operation.
Amazon’s partnership with Audi to provide home charging systems is the first time the online retailer has struck such a deal with an automaker, and signals a new front in Amazon’s drive to expand its reach into consumers’ homes beyond the presence of its Alexa smart speakers in living rooms and kitchens.
“We see charging installation as a very important business,” Pat Bigatel, director of Amazon Home Services, told Reuters at Audi’s launch event in San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Center.
Audi executives said home charging stations would cost about $1,000, depending on the home’s electrical system.
Tesla offers wall connectors for home charging at a $500 list price, and will arrange for installation, according to the company.
At the same time, Electrify America, a company funded by Volkswagen as part of its settlement of US diesel emission cheating litigation, plans to launch next year the next round of installations of public charging stations, Electrify America executives told Reuters.
Tesla has developed its own network of Supercharger charging stations with more than 11,000 chargers in North America. Electrify America plans to have 2,000 chargers installed by mid-June next year. Those will be open to any vehicle, and customers can swipe a credit card to recharge.
“We want to work with all” automotive brands, said Giovanni Palazzo, Electrify America’s chief executive.

Lifting the Curtain

Audi has been heralding the launch of the e-tron SUV for some time, but until Monday it had not shared many details of the vehicle.
The e-tron is electric, and has two electric motors — one in the front and one in the rear — driving all four wheels. The Hungarian factory building motors for the e-tron will start with a production pace equivalent to 200 vehicles a day, Audi officials said.
In Europe, the vehicle will use cameras instead of conventional mirrors to give drivers a view to the rear. That feature is still not approved by US regulators.
However, in many other respects the e-tron is a conventional, mainstream luxury SUV. It offers seating for five, and its length and wheelbase position it in the center of the market for midsize, five-passenger luxury SUVs such as the BMW X5. The e-tron is 5 inches (13 cm) shorter than the Tesla Model X, and it has conventional doors. The Model X uses vertically opening “falcon wing” doors.
The e-tron will have an advanced cruise-control system that can keep the car within a lane and maintain a set distance behind another vehicle, but the system will be designed so that drivers must keep hands on the wheel.
Audi officials said they do not have official range estimates for the e-tron SUV under US testing procedures. The e-tron’s 95 kWh battery has less capacity than the 100 kWh battery used in the Tesla Model X 100D model, but more than the base Model X 75D.
The Model X 100D is rated at 295 miles (475 km) of range by the US government.