late summerCar collectors gathered in Monterey, Detroit and, most recently, Oxford, England, in an annual tradition focused on ogling over – and at times bidding for – luxury and historic vehicles.
Outdoor luxury automotive events reigned in 2021 after a universal pause a year ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The events, which included the Goodwood Festival of Speed in July, the Monterey Car Week and Woodward Dream Cruise Show in August, and the Salon Privé wrapped up on Sunday, showing more than just swooping coupes and flashy hypercars.
The crowd, which gathered though the Delta version, and their reaction to the vehicles parked on the stately grounds at each event reflect an unbridled fever for super-luxury cars from the past – but also from the future.
“There was an uptick in demand for live auctions,” said Angus Dieckmann, auction specialist at Gooding & Co. “We had a lot of interest in live sales. Business is booming. People were cheering for random cars.”
In this real-life setting, there was an underlying sense of urgency – between both newcomers and established brands – to show customers that their latest vehicles represent the future. The August stop in Monterrey is still important for luxury automakers to show off the designs of their next generation models. Newcomers Rimac and Lucid Group invested in Monterey’s presence along with legacy automakers such as Bentley, Bugatti and Mercedes-Benz.
The throughline between vintage and contemporary cars are great designs, meant to entice new customers.
Between microchip shortages and a limited fleet, collectors placed orders for new versions of production cars before construction began. They mingled with the top executives of the brands. At least a dozen senior executives were seen at Pebble Beach, including Ford Motor Company CEO Jim Farley; Mercedes-Benz US President Dimitris Psylakis; Aston Martin CEO Tobias Morse; and Lamborghini CTO Maurizio Reggiani.
“This is the place to be when it comes to our luxury automotive business,” Morse told Aston, the large stand built in front of the classic car show. “We see new customers here that we have never seen before. With Formula 1 the brand stands out more than ever.”
On display were the furious Astons of the future, with the Valkyrie and Valhalla from Aston Martin Formula 1 cars centerstage, an indicator of how Aston sees the way ahead.
“It’s a statement,” Moers said. “Last year everyone thought the company was done, and then Lawrence Stroll stepped in and put a lot of money into the company. We’re back and connecting with customers we’re stronger than ever before.” While most of the UK was closed, he appointed new department heads from Bentley, Ford and Porsche.
As a new CEO takes over during the pandemic, it was also Morse’s first time meeting with its North American employees, dealers and customers.
Moers hails from Mercedes-AMG and is presented as a dependable executive who believes his experience in electrification gives him an edge. “Aston is an ultra-luxury business. They have always been famous for beautiful cars. With the new technologies that are available, there is no compromise anymore,” he said.
Influencing the Pebble Beach crowd, he has also focused on Aston’s business in China, and how to leverage Mercedes engineering across an expanding Aston portfolio.
“In China, you encounter different customers than in North America, a younger population of customers. You have 18s to 30s, and then upwards of 60s, and the middle doesn’t exist at the moment. China The pace of growth is unbelievable.When it comes to the growth of the Global Wealth Pocket, China and Asia are going to be number one.
For Aston, the future means electrification, rethinking the user experience in the car, and dismantling previous plans to draw from previous-generation Mercedes-Benz technology on the car.
“We decided not to use Mercedes’ HMI infotainment. If you build the HMI for the future, it should be a little more attractive.” Rather than include Mercedes MBUX infotainment, they said they’re building a new infotainment system with ART, an Italian supplier that sold Lamborghini and Has worked for Apple. “We build our own environment. Our own ecosystem. “
Aston Martin will use Mercedes’ V8 engine technology to become more efficient to meet industry requirements as the transition to electrification.
Power, Passion and Technique
A theme emerged among car company executives at Pebble Beach to switch to a new way of powering cars to reach compliance standards, while maintaining a passion for cars among customers and up-to-date in-cars. Attracted new people with experiences.
No one can do it alone – small bespoke ultra-luxury manufacturers rely on investments from larger automakers or parent companies to supply engines and electronic platforms, relying on a competitive talent pool to grow. Then these small luxury brands must work hard to differentiate themselves from the larger companies.
“One of the most important and costly developments for the past year and for the future is what is called an electronic platform,” said Lamborghini CTO Regianni. “Electronic platform is something that no one can touch or see. This is the real nervous system of the car. This is what we try to use from the group. This allows us to use most carryovers, systems or components that are not possible to identify.”
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 take what the group can offer, but we try to be different,” he said. Lamborghini, he said, was the first auto brand to launch an Amazon Alexa partnership, which opened doors to thinking about the future as customers embrace Alexa integration. “Voice is how to make a filter for voice recognition. Imagine in the future, you have trouble, a lamp turns on and you ask Alexa, tell me what to do. I need to stop the car, I Service assistants need to be called. You build artificial intelligence,” Reggiani says. They are working to gather data to create new ways of using voice design and voice.
But for the discerning Lamborghini customer, expensive technology needs to be showcased in flashy designs that can’t seem too old. “Design is the first reason to buy a Lamborghini,” says Regiani. “The design is not the same as before, but a pure design. At most the design is an integration of engineering within aesthetics. Every single component of a car must have functionality. Aerodynamic meets cooling. Now with the advent of PHEV cooling even more You can imagine that battery management would be very complex. The design should meet the requirements in a way that is good.”
Tech and Design in the Modern Age
The vintage cars at Monterey Car Week were a reminder that aerodynamics and weight distribution always ruled car design principles and drove progress, especially on cars used for motorsports. But technology and design in the modern age means speed, electrification, ADAS, and connectivity housed in a system that is sleek and timeless. “One of the most important points is to guarantee sentiment and that is a necessity,” said Regiani.
Designing the future means knowing where it is all going. In a fast-moving world, luxury automakers have their jobs cut short to keep up with the pace. This is a tall order. Tesla, the automaker that didn’t exist, timed its AI announcements to overlap with the week and still the company that everyone is chasing electrification.
In Monterey, driving vintage cars that are immaculately cared for are available in limited quantities and can therefore be an addictive sport worth millions of dollars. I road-tested a 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, a beautiful manual-transmission roadster, along the Pacific Ocean, which gave me a small glimpse into this sacred world where the price of entry is prohibitive, especially during a pandemic.
Goodwood, Woodward and Salon Privé, which wrapped up this weekend, were equally eye-catching. Now with the posh outdoor event in the rearview mirror, the automotive industry has shifted its eyes – to focus solely on the future of transportation.
The IAA Mobility Show, which began this week in Munich, has featured a far more immersive and insightful experience as automakers try to re-imagine the tired auto shows of the past. The array of electric models and concepts on display are a reminder that the one thing money can’t predict is the speed of progress.