Aston Martin delays EV launch as drivers still want 'smell' and 'noise' of gas engines

Carmakers are getting used to swallowing a hard pill: people aren’t that interested in electric vehicles anymore. 

And for the Formula One brand behind the cars driven by James Bond, it looks like selling customers on a quiet, eco-friendly version of its engines is going to be a mammoth uphill battle. 

Aston Martin has pushed back plans to roll out its first electric car, citing the falling consumer EV demand that has been a theme of the wider automotive sector. 

Instead, the carmaker is doubling down on hybrid production so drivers can still get a kick from hearing and smelling their six-figure sports cars.

Drivers still want the ‘smell and feel and noise’ of an Aston Martin

Speaking to journalists following the release of annual earnings, Aston Martin executive chairman Lawrence Stroll said EV demand hadn’t lived up to the expectations of analysts and politicians. 

The automaker had originally planned to produce an electric SUV as early as next year, but those plans have now been shelved until 2026 thanks to a disconnect between supply and demand.

“The consumer demand, certainly at an Aston Martin price point, is not what we thought it was going to be two years ago,” Candian billionaire Stroll said, Reuters reports.

Stroll indicated there was much more “driven demand” for the group’s hybrid vehicles. The group has launched a plug-in version of its $800,000 Valhalla supercar. It is planning similar plug-in version of its Vantage, DB12, DBS and DBX models too.

According to Stroll, reluctance to shift to an electric version is doubly tough for high-end brands like Aston Martin.

This is particularly true since the brand’s foray into the high-octane, gas-guzzling world of Formula One in the last few years gave it an image makeover.

“What we are feeling is there are people that still want some electrification to drive around the city for five, or 10, or 15 miles but still have the sports car smell and feel and noise when you get onto the auto routes,” Stroll said, per the Telegraph, pointing to a particular reluctance for EVs among drivers outside major cities.

EV winter

Trouble convincing consumers to make the switch to fully electric vehicles isn’t confined to carmakers that made their name with loud and fast engines. 

Falling gas prices have slowed the urgency among consumers to make a switch from combustible engines. 

The industry is also struggling to win over everyday consumers, after collecting market share more easily from early adopting hardcore EV drivers.

Carmakers across the globe are battling falling sales of EVs. In Germany, sales are expected to drop 14% after the government withdrew subsidies for the cars in December.

Last week, Mercedes CEO Ola Källenius told Bloomberg Television it would be many years before the cost of making an EV matched the cost of an internal combustion engine car, in a warning of the long transition to electric.

The push for electric vehicle production has in part been led by governments keen to lower their carbon footprints following historic climate agreements. 

But increasingly, producers don’t see incentives and investment in infrastructure significantly moving the dial from a consumer perspective.

Demand is instead being funneled to the middle ground of hybrid vehicles.

Indeed, Stroll’s comments that EV demand isn’t where he thought it would be a couple of years ago serve as vindication for a prediction from the former CEO of hybrid King Toyota 18 months ago. 

Back in October 2022, Akio Toyoda said EVs “are just going to take longer than the media would like us to believe.”

Hybrid vehicle sales grew faster than sales of electric vehicles last year.

“We think the market is now rethinking the potential of hybrid products, which are a strength of Toyota,” Goldman Sachs analysts wrote in a research note.

High-end carmakers seek wealthy EV buyers

Aston Martin has tried to pull itself back into profitability by aligning itself with luxury, both by reentering Formula One and opening a store on Manhattan’s prime Park Avenue.

In 2021, Stroll took the carmaker back into F1 for the first time since the 1960s, aligning the carmaker with other behemoths like Ferrari and McLaren.

The group halved its annual losses to £240 million ($303 million) last year, beating expectations.

But that brand shift isn’t an obvious selling point to those curious about buying an EV—and Aston Martin is finding that their wealthy fans have a much higher bar than the average consumer when it comes to going electric.

It’s a problem faced by most luxury carmakers.

Ferrari is in the process of trialing an artificial engine noise for its future EV products to get consumers over the hump of authenticity.

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