The Rich Are Different

Product is always fundamental in this industry. But when it comes to luxury, it is now only part of the equation.

At the recent New York Auto Show, Land Rover introduced the Range Rover SVAutobiography.

Part of the name—the run-together part—stems from the fact that this vehicle comes out of the company’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO), so that’s how you get the SV.  Part of the specialness is what’s under the hood, a supercharged V8.  While the ordinary supercharged V8 on offer provides 510 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque, the SVAutobiography bumps that to 550 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque.

And lest you be concerned, you’re propelled in comfort and sumptuousness.

As Gerry McGovern, Land Rover Design Director and Chief Creative Officer, put it, “With the SVAutobiography we have taken the opportunity to optimize the luxury execution and precision of the Range Rover while delivering beautiful detailing that considerably enhances the customer’s experience of our flagship vehicle.”

Or, as John Edwards, Managing Director of Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations, put it, “Range Rover originally defined the luxury SUV segment and the new SVAutobiography, developed by Special Vehicle Operations, takes Range Rover to another level of comfort, craftsmanship and refinement.”

While this may be somewhat crass to point out, the SVAutobiography starts at $199,495.

As New York is one of the top-10 wealthiest cities in the U.S., it should come as no surprise that the auto show in that town had a particular orientation toward the upper echelon when it came to vehicle introductions.

Lincoln debuted its Continental Concept in New York.  New York probably has more black Town Cars than any other city, so “Lincoln” resonates there with a particularly familiar timber.  Although that car is a concept, it will become a production vehicle next year.

Cadillac took the physical wraps off of its flagship—for now, as there is a rumor that there will be something above it coming at some point in the future—CT6.  I say “physical” because as keen-eyed viewers know, they’d slipped the car into a television commercial that first aired during the Oscars (which unfortunately had its lowest ratings in six years, so that wasn’t as timely as it might have been).

Coincident with the media preview in NY, the NADA and J.D. Power held its annual Automotive Forum at the Grand Hyatt (note not just “Hyatt,” as this is New York).

One of the speakers was Mark Templin, executive vice president of Lexus International.  During his presentation, he said, “Last year, globally, for all luxury goods, consumer spending grew 7% to nearly a trillion dollars, paced by a 10% rise in luxury automobile sales.”

“Trillion” is: 1,000,000,000,000.  That’s a lot of zeros.

Templin went on to say, “Luxury auto sales are projected to rise from approximately 9-million vehicles this year to 11.1-million in 2025.  That’s an increase of more than 23%.”

That’s a lot of SVAutobiographies, Continentals, and CT6s.  And I suppose I ought to throw in RX 350s, as Lexus used New York to introduce the fourth-generation of that crossover.

While Templin, not unexpectedly, pointed out that “luxury auto consumers expect the highest quality vehicles as well as designs that stir their emotions,” it isn’t all about designing and building superb products.

Templin said that yes, the dealership experience is key, the luxury buyer must be treated exceedingly well, but that it goes well beyond that, well beyond what one might expect an automobile manufacturer to do.

“Today’s luxury consumers increasingly seek personalized experiences that complement vehicle ownership,” Templin said.

Two days after Templin spoke, Audi of America announced that it has become the “official automotive partner” for the Whitney Museum of American Art, which will be opening on May 1 in New York.  Audi and the Whitney will collaborate on an “Audi Lounge” in the museum during exclusive events.  Audi will also provide chauffeured car service during the celebratory events to be held the week before the museum opens.

Product is always fundamental in this industry.  But when it comes to luxury, it is now only part of the equation.  An important part, but perhaps a small one.