Land, Sea and Air: Luxury Auto Brands Extend Themselves in All Directions

posted in media, news on 12/5/17

As seen on LIMA’s Inside Licensing on

Luxury automakers are increasingly traveling new routes to reinforce their brand image and attract new consumers.

Luxury automotive brands traditionally have used upscale apparel and fashion accessories (along with less exclusive categories such as die-cast and model cars) as the basis of their lifestyle efforts. But in recent years, they’ve also been layering on a diverse collection of less-than-obvious extensions.

For example, Aston Martin and Porsche both have licensed their names to developers of residential towers in Miami. And Bentley Motors’ signed licensee Professional Golf Europe to develop a set of Bentley golf clubs after finding that up to 80% of its owners played the sport, a says a Bentley spokesman.  The clubs don’t come cheap, with a bag of 10 clubs running just under $5,000.

It’s not just about land-based activities. Quintessence Yachts has delivered its first two Aston Martin AM37 37-foot yachts to customers owners, and plans to make 8-12 of them a year on a build-to-order basis, says Quintessence’s Mariella Mengozzi.  The company was formed several years ago by an Aston Martin aficionado, who struck an agreement with the carmaker in 2014, says Mengozzi. Aston Martin also has an agreement with Triton Submarines for a branded three-person Trident submersible that is expected to be delivered next year.

Not that there isn’t room for more pedestrian brand-building exercises. Ferrari licensee PortAventura Entertainment this year opened a Ferrari Land theme park section in Spain, with rides such as  the Red Force rollercoaster that accelerates from 0-110mph in five seconds and climbs to a height of 300-ft. (Another Ferrari World has been operating in Abu Dhabi since 2010.) And baby stroller manufacturer Maclaren sells a BMW M version ($649) featuring a five-point safety belt with the BMW insignia and BMW-inspired wheels that found its way in Neiman Marcus and Harrods.

Touch Points

“In luxury automotive brands, the visibility is relatively limited on its core product because of the nature of the product and its exclusivity,” says Beanstalk’s Louise French, whose agency previously represented Jaguar. “By licensing into other premium categories, products and experiences, you can create touch points for consumers who may one day buy into the brand if they have the ability to do so. They are certainly already buying into the ethos, the luxury feeling the aspirational aspect.”

Indeed, many of the licensed products hew closely to design aspects of the cars. The Aston Martin AM37 yachts that Quintessence Yachts started delivering this year (starting at $1.2 million) use the same paint supplier as the namesake cars, and the dashboard design mimics that found in the vehicles.

Mercedes Benz has a collection of licensed products under the Mercedes-Benz Style subrand, which encompasses “products where the Mercedes-Benz designers are actively involved in the product development phase. Here, there is an emphasis on design and innovation and the partner is an expert in their field.” Such products include a motor yacht with Silver Arrows Marine; a private jet with Lufthansa Technik; a helicopter with Airbus Helicopters; and lighting with Artemide.

“You define luxury by quality and experience so automakers are trying to take that same process and expand into other areas which are why residences and other experiential categories make so much sense,” says Global Icons’ Jeff Lotman, whose firm represents Ford and its luxury Lincoln brand. “Those people that are going to buy an Aston Martin or Porsche condo probably don’t have the cars. It is about the style and design and it may make them think about buying the car.”

Says Aston Martin’s Simon Sproule: “We are three years into a seven-year turnaround plan and a key part of that is we need to attract a lot of new people into the business; one of the ways we do that is by finding new ways to give the brand exposure.

Living Spaces

Some details on the Porsche and Aston Martin residence tower projects in Miami: The $560 million, 60-story Porsche Design Tower, designed by the carmaker’s Porsche Design Studio, was the first of what licensee Dezer Development expects will be several facilities, says Dezer’s Gil Dezer. The building, which opened in March, has 132 units priced from $4miilion to $32.5 million; one notable feature is an elevator that takes cars to the resident’s unit.

Meanwhile, G&G Developments broke ground this fall on the 66-story, 321-unit Aston Martin Residences that is scheduled to open in 2021 with units priced from $600,000-$50 million. In keeping with the Aston Martin car design, door handles will feature the same hand-stitched leather used in the vehicles and furniture and accents will be made from the same carbon fiber and leather.

The Porsche and Aston Martin buildings follow Mercedes-Benz licensee Frasers Hospitality’s “Mercedes-Benz Living @ Fraser” residences in London. The units are tucked inside the Fraser Suites Kensington and nine more residences are planned for Singapore. Similarly, there’s a Maserati Room at The Ritz Carlton in Okinawa, Japan, and Bentley suites at the St. Regis Hotels in New York and Dubai that feature, among other things, herringbone curtains trimmed with Bentley seat belts.

Any licensing and extension effort needs to reflect and build on the brand’s core values and equity. For example, says Andy Topkins of Brandgenuity, which began representing BMW earlier this year, last year’s launch of BMW’s i8 plug-in hybrid car and other eco-friendly vehicles “helps evolve the brand perception. It is not a literal translation, but as BMW moves further ahead into environmental, eco-friendly areas, it gives us a little more permission” to expand licensing in similarly themed directions.

Among recent developments:

  • In addition to the aforementioned golf clubs, Bentley launched “Iconic Classics” handbags, tote bags and clutches that echo that lines of the automaker’s 2018 Continental GT that was introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.
  • UK-based Bullit Group has launched Land Rover smartphones and accessories earlier this year. The Android-based Land Rover A9 ($179) features a 4.3-inch screen and is dust and waterproof, the latter down to a depth of three feet. The X8 version ($310) has a slightly larger screen – 4.7 inches – and is shockproof.
  • For upscale travelers, Aston Martin is weighing licensees for travel services, having already itself launched “Art of Living” travel tours that this month combines driving its cars through the Scottish Highlands with a four-day stay at Skibo Estate and Spa, the former home of industrialist Andrew Carnegie.