Auto makers rush to conceive the desire for luxury and tech – TechCrunch


At the end of summer, car collectors have converged in Monterey, Detroit and, more recently, Oxford, England, as part of an annual tradition focused on finding – and often auctioning – luxury and historic vehicles.

Outdoor luxury automotive events reigned supreme in 2021 after a universal hiatus the previous year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The events, which included the Goodwood Festival Speed ​​shows in July, Monterey Car Week and Woodward Dream Cruise in August, and the Salon Privé which ended on Sunday, showed more than just coupes and flashy hypercars.

The crowd, which has gathered despite the delta variant, and their reaction to the vehicles lining the lavish grounds at each event reflected an unbridled fever for super-luxury cars of the past – but also of the future.

“There was pent-up demand for a live auction,” said Angus Dykman, auction specialist for Gooding & Company. “We had a lot of interest in direct sales. Business is booming. People were clapping for random cars.

Porsche 917 at the 2021 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach, California, United States on Sunday, August 15, 2021. Credit: Getty images, Photographer: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg

In this real world, there was an underlying sense of urgency – both among newcomers and established brands – to show customers that their new vehicles represent the future. The August shutdown in Monterey is still essential for luxury automakers to show off designs for their next generation of models. Newcomers Rimac and Lucid Group have invested in a presence in Monterey, along with traditional automakers like Bentley, Bugatti and Mercedes-Benz.

The guideline between vintage and contemporary cars lies in the stunning designs, intended to win over new customers.

Collectors placed orders for new editions of production cars even before production began, all amid a shortage of microchips and limited fleets. They mingled with the top executives of the brands. At least a dozen senior executives have been spotted at Pebble Beach, including Jim Farley, CEO of Ford Motor Company; the American president of Mercedes-Benz, Dimitris Psillakis; Tobias Moers, CEO of Aston Martin; and Lamborghini CTO Maurizio Reggiani.

Participants see Bugatti Automobiles SAS Bolide during The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering in Carmel, California, United States, Friday, August 13, 2021. Image credit: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg via Getty Images

“This is the place to be when it comes to our luxury auto business,” Moers said from the large Aston-built stand overlooking the classic auto show. “We’re seeing new customers here that we’ve never seen before. The brand represents more than ever with Formula 1. “

The racy Astons of the future were on display, with the Aston Martin Formula 1 car at the center of the Valkyrie and Valhalla, an indicator of how Aston sees the way ahead.

“It’s a statement,” Moers said. “Last year everyone thought the business was over, then Lawrence Stroll stepped in and invested a lot of money in the business. We’re back and we’re stronger than ever before we engage with customers. While much of the UK was closed, he hired new department heads at Bentley, Ford and Porsche.

As the new CEO who took control during the pandemic, it was also the first time Moers had met with his North American employees, dealers and customers.

Moers comes from Mercedes-AMG and comes across as a confident executive who believes his background in electrification gives him an edge. “Aston is an ultra-luxurious company. They had always been famous for their beautiful cars. With the new technologies available, there are no more compromises, ”he said.

While impressing Pebble Beach audiences, he also focused on Aston’s business in China and how to harness Mercedes engineering in an expanded Aston portfolio.

“In China, you have different customers than in North America, a population of young customers. You’re 18-30, then 60s and up, and the gap doesn’t exist at the moment. The pace of China is amazing. When it comes to growing the global pocket of wealth, China and Asia are going to be number one. “

For Aston, the future means electrification, rethinking the user experience in the car and abandoning previous plans to take advantage of the latest generation Mercedes-Benz technology on the car.

“We have decided not to use infotainment, the Mercedes HMI. If you are building an HMI for the future, it needs to be a bit more engaging. Instead of integrating the Mercedes MBUX infotainment, he said they were building a new infotainment system with ART, an Italian supplier that has worked for Lamborghini and Apple. “We create our own environment. Our own ecosystem.

Aston Martin will use Mercedes V8 engine technology to become more efficient to meet industry demands as a transition to electrification.

Power, passion and technology

Pebble Beach Contest

Audi Skyphere Concept. Credit: Tamara Warren

A theme emerged among auto company executives at Pebble Beach to convert to a new way of propelling cars to meet compliance standards, while maintaining the passion for cars among customers and attracting new ones with up-to-date car experiences.

No one can go it alone – small, bespoke ultra-luxury manufacturers rely on investments from major automakers or parent companies to supply engines and electronics platforms, which depend on a competitive talent pool to deliver. develop. Then these small luxury brands have to push harder to be unique compared to the big companies.

“One of the biggest and costliest developments of the last year and the future is the so-called electronic platform,” said Lamborghini Technical Director Reggiani. “The electronic platform is something that no one can touch and that no one can see. This is the real nervous system of the car. This is what we are trying to use from the group. This allows us to use the most carry over, systems or components that it is not possible to recognize.

Lamborghini is part of the Volkswagen Group and some of its main competitors are part of the same company, including Bugatti, Bentley, Audi and Porsche.

“We take what the group can offer, but we try to be different,” he said. Lamborghini was the first car brand to engage in a partnership with Amazon Alexa, which opened doors for future thinking, he said, as customers embraced the Alexa integration. “Sound is the way to create a filter for speech recognition. Imagine in the future you have some problems, a lamp comes on and you ask Alexa, tell me what to do. I have to stop the car, I have to call the service assistant. You are creating artificial intelligence, ”Reggiani says. He said they were working to collect data to create new ways to use sound design and voice.

But for the discerning Lamborghini customer, the expensive technology needs to be presented in attractive designs that can’t seem too old-fashioned. “Design is the number one reason to buy Lamborghini,” Reggiani says. “Design is no longer like in the past, but pure design. More and more, design is an integration of engineering into aesthetics. Every component of the car must have functionality. Aerodynamics meet cooling. Now with the advent of PHEV, cooling will become more and more complicated. You can imagine that battery management will be super complicated. The design should meet the requirements in a cool way.

Technology and design in the modern age

Vintage cars from Monterey Car Week were a reminder that aerodynamics and weight distribution have always dominated car design principles and pushed progress forward, especially on cars used for motorsport. But technology and design in the modern age mean speed, electrification, ADAS and connectivity all housed in one sleek and timeless system. “One of the most important points is to ensure emotion and that is a requirement,” said Reggiani.

Designing the future means communicating where everything is going. In a rapidly changing world, luxury automakers have their work cut out for them to keep pace. It is a tall order. Tesla, the automaker that was not in attendance, timed its AI announcements to overlap with the week and is still the company everyone is chasing after electrification.

In Monterey, driving immaculately maintained vintage cars that are available in limited quantities and therefore worth millions of dollars can be an exhilarating sport. I drove a 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, an elegant manual transmission roadster, along a road in the Pacific Ocean, which gave me a little glimpse into this sacred world. , where the entry price is prohibitive, especially during a pandemic.

Equally alluring were Goodwood, Woodward and Salon Prive, which ended this weekend. Now, with the chic exterior events in the rearview mirror, the auto industry has turned its gaze – for the time being – to emissions focused solely on the future of transportation.

The IAA Mobility show, which kicked off this week in Munich, has so far presented a more immersive and hands-on experience as automakers try to reimagine the tired auto shows of the past. The range of models and electrical concepts on display is a reminder that one thing money cannot predict is the speed of progress.

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