Late summer, car collectors converged on Monterey, Detroit, and more recently Oxford, England, in an annual tradition focused on looking with the eyes and often bidding on luxury and historic vehicles.
Outdoor luxury automotive events ruled in 2021 after a universal hiatus the previous year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The events, which included the Goodwood Festival Speed in July, the Monterey Car Week and Woodward Dream Cruise shows in August, and the Salon Privé that wrapped up Sunday, showcased more than flashy coupes and hypercars.
The crowds, which piled up despite the delta variant, and their reaction to the vehicles lining the luxurious grounds at each event reflected a rampant fever for super-luxury cars of the past, but also of the future.
“There was a pent-up demand for a live auction,” said Angus Dykman, an auction specialist at Gooding & Company. “We were very interested in live sales. Business has been booming. People cheered on cars at random. “
In this real-life environment, there was an underlying sense of urgency, both among newcomers and established brands, to show customers that their newest vehicles represent the future. The August stop in Monterey continues to be critical for luxury automakers to showcase their next-generation model designs. Newcomers Rimac and Lucid Group invested in a presence in Monterey, along with traditional automakers like Bentley, Bugatti and Mercedes-Benz.
The dividing line between vintage and contemporary cars is impressive designs, which are bound to attract new customers.
Collectors placed orders for the new editions of production cars before manufacturing began, all amid a shortage of microchips and limited fleets. They mingled with top brand executives. At least a dozen top executives were spotted at Pebble Beach, including Jim Farley, CEO of Ford Motor Company; Mercedes-Benz US President Dimitris Psillakis; Tobias Moers, CEO of Aston Martin; and Lamborghini CTO Maurizio Reggiani.
“It’s the place to be when it comes to our luxury auto business,” Moers said from the large booth Aston built overlooking the classic car show. “We see new customers here that we have never seen before. The brand represents more than ever with Formula 1 “.
The daring Astons of the future were on display, with the Formula 1 Aston Martin taking center stage for the Valkyrie and Valhalla, an indicator of how Aston sees its way forward.
“It’s a statement,” Moers said. “Last year everyone thought the business was over, and then Lawrence Stroll stepped in and put a lot of money into the business. We are back and stronger than ever in engaging with customers. ”While much of the UK was closed, it hired new department heads from Bentley, Ford and Porsche.
As the new CEO who took over during the pandemic, it was also the first time Moers had met with his North American employees, distributors and customers.
Moers hails from Mercedes-AMG and presents himself as a confident executive who believes his experience in electrification gives him an edge. “Aston is an ultra luxury business. They had always been famous for their beautiful cars. With the new technologies that are available, there are no longer any compromises, ”he said.
While impressing the Pebble Beach crowd is important, it also focuses on Aston’s business in China and how to leverage Mercedes engineering in an expanded Aston portfolio.
“In China, you face different clients than North America, a young population of clients. You are between 18 and 30 years old, and then 60 onwards, and in between does not exist at the moment. The pace of China is incredible. When it comes to the growth of the pocket of world wealth, China and Asia will be the first ”.
For Aston, the future means electrification, rethinking the in-car user experience, and scrapping past plans to take advantage of next-generation Mercedes-Benz in-car technology.
“We decided not to use the infotainment, the Mercedes HMI. If you create an HMI for the future, it should be a little more attractive. “Instead of incorporating Mercedes MBUX infotainment, he said they are building a new infotainment system with ART, an Italian supplier that has worked for Lamborghini and Apple. own environment. Our own ecosystem. “
Aston Martin will use Mercedes V8 engine technology to be more efficient and meet industry requirements as a transition to electrification.
Power, passion and technology
An issue emerged among auto company executives in Pebble Beach to turn to a new way of driving cars to meet compliance standards, while maintaining a passion for cars among customers and attracting new ones with up-to-date experiences in the car.
No one can do it alone: Small bespoke ultra-luxury manufacturers depend on investments from large automakers or parent companies to supply motors and electronic platforms, which depend on a competitive talent pool to develop. So these small luxury brands must try harder to be unique among the big companies.
“One of the most important and costly developments of the past year and for the future is what is called the electronic platform,” said Lamborghini CTO Reggiani. “The electronic platform is something that no one can touch or see. It is the true nervous system of the car. This is what we try to use from the group. This allows us to use the largest amount of remnants, systems or components that are not possible to recognize ”.
Lamborghini is owned by the Volkswagen Group and some of its main competitors are part of the same company, including Bugatti, Bentley, Audi and Porsche.
“We accept what the group can offer, but we try to be different,” he said. Lamborghini was the first car brand to embark on a partnership with Amazon Alexa, which opened doors for thinking ahead, he said, because customers embraced the Alexa integration. “Sound is the way to create a filter for speech recognition. Imagine in the future, you have problems, a lamp comes on and you ask Alexa, tell me what I have to do. I need to stop the car, I need to call the service assistant. You create artificial intelligence, ”says Reggiani. He said they are working to collect data to build new ways to use voice and sound design.
But for the discerning Lamborghini customer, expensive technology has to be displayed in attractive designs that can’t seem too dated. “Design is the number one reason to buy Lamborghini,” says Reggiani. “The design is not like in the past, but a pure design. Increasingly, design is an integration of engineering within aesthetics. Every component of the car must have functionality. Aerodynamics meets cooling. Now with the advent of PHEV, refrigeration will get more and more complicated. You can imagine that battery management will be super complicated. The design needs to meet the requirements in a way that’s cool. “
Technology and design in the modern era
Vintage cars at Monterey Car Week were a reminder that aerodynamics and weight distribution always govern car design principles and drive progress, particularly in used motorsport cars. But technology and design in the modern era means speed, electrification, ADAS and connectivity housed in a sleek and timeless system. “One of the most important points is to guarantee excitement and this is a requirement,” Reggiani said.
Designing the future means communicating where everything is going. In a fast-moving world, luxury automakers have a lot of work to do to keep up. It is a difficult task. Tesla, the automaker that was not present, timed its AI announcements to overlap with the week and remains the company everyone is chasing for electrification.
In Monterey, driving vintage cars that are immaculately cared for, available in limited quantities, and therefore worth millions of dollars can be an intoxicating sport. I drove a 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, a sleek manual transmission roadster, along a Pacific Ocean highway, which gave me a little glimpse into this sacred world, where the entry price is prohibitive, especially during a pandemic.
Goodwood, Woodward and Salon Prive, which concluded this weekend, were equally attractive. Now, with the stylish outdoor events in the rearview mirror, the auto industry has shifted its gaze, for the moment, to shows focused solely on the future of transportation.
The IAA Mobility fair, which began this week in Munich, has thus far presented a more immersive and hands-on experience as automakers try to reimagine the tired car shows of the past. The variety of electrical models and concepts on display is a reminder that one thing money cannot predict is the speed of progress.