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Fail of the Century

Fail of the century #30: Aston Martin Cygnet

“A luxury solution to urban motoring in a unique and innovative format,” Aston stated proudly in 2011, “Cygnet was conceived, designed and built as a true Aston Martin.”

All very enticing, save for one tiny issue. It was cobblers. The Cygnet wasn’t conceived, designed and built as a true Aston Martin. It was a Toyota iQ with a chinny new grille and a bullock-worth of leather upholstery. An exercise in badge engineering with the cynical aim of lowering Aston’s average fleet emissions.

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Which, in its own way, was kinda fine. As cynical strategies to lower fleet emissions go, aristocratic Aston giving a tiny Toyota the full Love Island makeover is, at the very least, an original one. And the standard iQ, while embodying exactly none of the traditional Aston brand values, was a clever, forward-thinking city car. If you’re going to pick a micromachine to roll in glitter, you could do worse.

Problem was, instead of acknowledging the £30k Cygnet’s humble underpinnings, Aston instead plumped for the ambitious strategy of ‘hoping no one would notice it was a £10k Toyota in fancy dress’.

No cigar. The Aston punters very much noticed, their moleskin-bound chequebooks remaining firmly closed. Initially hoping to shift 4,000 units annually, Aston sold a mere 150 Cygnets in the UK (all, presumably, to very tiny secret agents with no access to off-street parking) before canning production after just two years. At which point, we guess, Toyota revoked Aston’s licence to grille.

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