Aston Martin 'Cygnet', based on the Toyota iQ
Clearly carbon constraints, higher gas-mileage mandates, and concern over oil supplies are putting pressure on carmakers to change their lineups. And the loss of one-third of global car sales has slammed the industry like never before.
But still, we really thought we were hallucinating when we opened this morning's news. Aston Martin is working on a city car concept, known as the Cygnet (that's a baby swan). OK, fine.
The shocker is that it's based on the Toyota iQ, a tiny three-seater urban car from Japan's largest carmaker that will land in the US as a Scion. (Among other variants, Toyota is also developing an all-electric version of the iQ.)
The phrase "strange bedfellows" doesn't even begin to describe the jaw-dropping impact of this unusual collaboration, which was announced simultaneously by Aston Martin and Toyota Motors Europe.
For the States, the Toyota iQ was presented as a Scion at the New York Auto Show this spring. As the latest in that brand's string of quirky small cars, it makes perfect sense. But...as an Aston Martin?
The small British makers of luxurious sports coupes and convertibles says it's collaborating with Toyota on the concept. To quote the release, "Toyota and Aston Martin share the philosophy of engineering excellence and innovation underlined by a strong passion for cars."
The company calls the Cygnet "a new luxury commuter concept" that will provide "a distinctive, intelligent and exclusive solution for urban travel in style and luxury."
Apparently the Aston Martin version will have revised front styling--note the characteristic grille shape in the photo--and a far more luxurious interior, which will be fitted in Aston Martin's UK factory.
The volume is rumored to be roughly 2,000 Cygnets a year (that's a couple of days' production for Toyota), and the car is said to be destined first for current Aston owners and those waiting to receive cars on order.
Aston Martin CEO Ulrich Bez says he's "confident that this project could become reality in the not-too-distant future". Our colleague Richard Read suggests that this translates to, "Hey, in this economy, we'll try anything."
But we think there's method behind the madness. The Cygnet's gas mileage of 40 miles per gallon or more will up Aston Martin's corporate average mileage quite significantly, while reducing the average carbon impact of each of its cars proportionally.
Our favorite phrase from the release puts the car in perspective. Bez says the Cygnet is "akin to an exclusive tender to a luxury yacht."In other words, this is the car you drive to the garage where you keep your Aston Martin DBS, DB9, or Vantage.
But here's the burning question: Will we see James Bond driving the British-trimmed, Japanese-sourced Cygnet in a future movie? Would he dare?
2009 Scion iQ Concept