US: luxury automakers continue to become “affordable” image

Don’t imagine that luxury carmakers all of the sudden have decided to go down to the mundane level of the mass-market producers and relinquish their fat earnings margins.

No, they just increasingly offer more “affordable” models, although their definition of the word is certainly not the one we’re used to. They just give you the option to choose an entry-level model, such as Mercedes-Benz’s four-door coupe CLA, which starts just under $30,000. The catch is that no one would choose that model, instead opting for amenities (many of them necessary) that would instantly jump the price of the car back to substantial levels.

The situation has become noticeable even at higher levels – for example Aston Martin introduced the V8 powered Vantage GT, dubbed “an accessible race car” by Julian Jenkins, president of Aston Martin’s American unit. The sporty model can treat you to a top speed of 190 mph (305 km/h) and is the British marquee’s first US car to come under $100,000. That’s a great offering, considering the mid-level Vantage S starts at $154,000 and you can go up to $302,000 for a Vanquish Volante.

The same goes for the luxurious Italian Maserati – which has nailed a sales boom since introducing the very “affordable” Ghibli sedan, starting at $66,900. In 2015 there would be another option – the very luxurious Alfieri (a nod to one of the founding brothers) – that would come under $100,000 and have under the hood a 4.7-liter, V8 engine churning out 460 hp.