The Luxury Automotive Sector Continues to Forge Ahead


James Lawson | November 04, 2013

James Lawson of Ledbury Research investigates the push from luxury automotive brands, from simply selling cars to launching lifestyle extensions

A selection from Bugatti’s lifestyle collection

Following Bentley, Lexus and Lincoln, Bugatti is also taking steps to build a lifestyle around its brand. This comes in the form of a new collection of men’s clothing and accessories. Designed to showcase the company’s values of “art, forme, technique”, all lines of the collection reflect something of the car.

The Ettore Bugatti monogram line translates physical elements of the car’s auto’s designs into fashion. For example, the distinctive centre line on its historic models is expressed in the form of a centre stripe at the back of its cashmere knitwear (Pursuitist).

Its other line, Extreme Performance, uses high-tech and innovative materials to reflect Bugatti’s engineering expertise. And there’s also a bespoke programme exclusively for Bugatti customers, made on request and by appointment only.

“ The Ettore Bugatti monogram line translates physical elements of the car’s auto’s designs into fashion ”

The brand hopes this move will increase its visibility – and no doubt they will achieve this, with plans to build a global network of 35 retail flagships, boutiques and shop-in-shops over the next 5 years. But moving away from one’s core expertise too far too soon can be dangerous.

Using the world’s top-of-the-range materials does not compensate for a brand’s lack of history in a particular area. Indeed, Bugatti is leveraging on the reputation of high-end brands in other sectors to produce watches and accessories. These include watchmaker Parmigiani Fleurier and homeware brand, Lalique.

While these are recognised names, this almost reaffirms the auto brands own limited expertise in those categories. From a luxury standpoint, this is not ideal – it may be better to be an expert in one area and innovate within that, than to expand into unfamiliar territory and be associated with mediocrity.

Aston Martin’s One-77 Cycle, a limited edition road bike

An alternative is to start first with close extensions. Aston Martin’s limited edition road bike, the One-77 Cycle, is a good example. Produced in the same quantity as the One-77 car and featuring the same clean design, this is an extension that customers can easily understand because it uses innovations naturally derived from racing car technology.

The result is an element of trust in the quality of the new product, and ultimately in the brand. At the other end of the scale, Ferrari’s licensing move into apparel has attracted the masses, yet has managed maintain the exclusivity of its brand. This is because it has associated the Ferrari store to its almost separate motorsports brand, rather than the automotive brand itself.

In summary, moving into lifestyle is a prevalent trend amongst prestige brands, and a very rewarding one if executed well. Brands need to plan their route carefully – though the safest way is to expand gradually into areas of similar expertise.

To further investigate the automotive industry on Luxury Society, we invite your to explore the related materials as follows:

- Luxury Auto Brands Lead Share of Online Search in Brazil
- The Most Luxurious Launches from 2013’s Geneva Motor Show
- Western Luxury Brands Celebrate Chinese New Year, Year of the Snake

Analysis | Cars