Shift­ing Gears

How to nav­i­gate the lux­ury car mar­ket

ZOOMER Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Anne O’Ha­gan

LUX­URY CARS USED to be so re­as­sur­ingly ob­vi­ous. They had leather seats and ex­tra legroom. They were shiny, costly and envy-in­duc­ing. But now in­vest­ment bankers are buy­ing $90,000 pickup trucks for week­end di­ver­sions, and celebri­ties like Jay-Z and Drake favour a matte fin­ish for their May­bachs. Once as down­mar­ket as you can get, matte is now a cus­tom lux­ury fea­ture that can add as much as $5K to the cost of a ve­hi­cle. And thanks to the sin­gu­lar vi­sion of bil­lion­aire-in­ven­tor-fu­tur­ist Elon Musk, Tesla has also done its part to com­pli­cate the lux­ury mar­ket by mak­ing elec­tric cars fast and sexy. In­creas­ingly, eco-con­scious­ness is less crunchy gra­nola, more a sig­ni­fier of sta­tus.

If you like old-school lux­ury, how­ever, com­fort is your pri­or­ity and the Lincoln Mo­tor Com­pany knows it. “It feels like it was de­signed just for you,” says Soo Kang, chief in­te­rior de­signer of the re­launched Con­ti­nen­tal. Its patented Per­fect Po­si­tion Seats can be ad­justed 30 dif­fer­ent ways, pro­vide multiple heat­ing and cooling op­tions and will even give you a mas­sage, thus link­ing lux­ury with well­ness. So while its sig­na­ture grille may be Bent­ley-es­que, the in­te­rior of the Con­ti­nen­tal feels like a ther­apy ses­sion.

Lincoln also seems to know what “the ladies” like, which is good since fe­male buy­ers have be­come a ma­jor force in the auto mar­ket­place, both as de­ci­sion-mak­ers and driv­ers, ac­cord­ing to the 2014 Frost and Sul­li­van re­search re­port, Women in Cars. The legacy au­tomaker’s cur­rent ad cam­paign “stars” ac­tor Matthew McConaughey, some­thing not a sin­gle woman fails to note when I men­tion the new Con­ti­nen­tal. McConaughey brought his cu­ri­ous al­lure to Lincoln’s MKX com­mer­cial, in which he was word­less (and hot). The new Con­ti­nen­tal cam­paign cap­i­tal­izes on a good thing: not only does McConaughey speak, there are two of him. “You may never sit in the back seat,” he muses to him­self from be­hind the wheel. “That’d be a shame,” his other self replies in a sexy drawl, set­tling into the rear of the car, eyes drift­ing closed.

To reimag­ine the Con­ti­nen­tal, a car with a sto­ried past – J.F.K. was as­sas­si­nated in one – Kang set out to en­gage you emo­tion­ally and, if it’s not love at first sight, the Con­ti­nen­tal aims to con­nect with you on first contact. In­stead of pedes­trian door han­dles, the Con­ti­nen­tal fea­tures the “e-latch,” a slim, sculp­tural door pull po­si­tioned at the ve­hi­cle’s mid-line. Lightly touch it and the door re­leases elec­tron­i­cally. Like “a first-class hand­shake: not too firm, not too weak,” she says.

A car’s colour is an­other pow­er­ful way to make an emo­tional con­nec­tion and, at GM, the Buick Avista, 2016 Con­cept Car of the Year, was con­ceived by its de­sign­ers from the start in an in­tensely deep, moody blue. In its de­sign, the Avista pushed bound­aries and a high-gloss blue was the colour that showed off its sur­face de­tails best. It also ap­peals to women. Says Sharon Gauci, Buick’s de­sign di­rec­tor: ‘Women aren’t afraid of some­thing that takes them out­side of their com­fort zone.’

That very men­tal­ity is what Fiat Chrysler must be bank­ing on this year as it rein­tro­duces North Amer­i­cans to its iconic Alfa-Romeo brand, start­ing with a trio of tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials launched dur­ing the 2017 Su­per Bowl. As we watch the red-hot Gi­u­lia sports sedan fly along a moun­tain road, we hear a sassy fe­male voice: “Dear Pre­dictable, There’s no other way to say this: It’s over.” The same could be said of the lux­ury car mar­ket in gen­eral – the fastest grow­ing seg­ment of the in­dus­try. The fu­ture is here. Ev­ery­thing about trans­porta­tion is chang­ing, from how we drive to what cars are made of, which makes pre­dictable lux­ury seem just so yes­ter­day.

LINCOLN CON­TI­NEN­TAL

ALFA ROMEO GI­U­LIA

BUICK AVISTA

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