Monday, April 15, 2013

Aston Gets Grilled By Ford

by: Michaël De Kerf
Ask car aficionados which brand of car this is:

You’ll most likely get this response: Aston Martin Vantage. The Vantage has a price tag north of $150,000. 

But it also looks like the Ford Fusion’s grill. The Fusion’s price? Around $25,000.  
Ford Fusion 2012

Has the classic design of the Aston Martin grill been ripped off? 

It’s not surprising that a mainstream brand would try to “borrow” styles of the higher end.  The purpose of this is straightforward.  If Ford can link (or infer) its Fusion to an elite car, then, other inferences might also take hold. In addition to having a better styled car, Ford model might benefit from other Aston Martin brand features like “powerful performance”, “sophisticated sportiness” or “refined sleek styling”. These inferences can be very valuable for Ford Fusion’s  brand equity.

Of course, this “borrowing” is a two way street. It could come at a cost to Aston Martin, which competes in the elite class of cars. It is unlikely that Aston Martin would want any associations that comes with Ford like: “main-street America feel” and “tough/robust ruggedness”.

Yet, Aston Martin doesn't seem to care about protecting its designs from Ford. This might seem strange. After all, don't designers protect their designs vigourously?  (Just think how Louboutin aggressively protected its red-soled shoes or how Apple locked horns with Samsung on design interface!)

There is really a simple answer to why Aston Martin has seemed to be complacent. The answer lies in the history of Aston Martin. In 1987, Ford became the majority shareholder of Aston Martin. Ford eventually became the sole owner in 1993 but then sold Aston Martin in 2007. During this 20-years period, lots of models were developed, giving Ford rights to a bunch of IP including designs.