Published On: Thu, Aug 2nd, 2012

Don’t judge a car by its body

Don't judge a car by its body

Don't judge a car by its body

The old adage of not judging a book by its cover applies well to many automobiles on offer in today’s crowded car market.

Automakers are increasingly turning to common platforms to manufacture multiple makes and models and thus save on costs through using the same designs for subsystems and employing common components. Just look at the Volkswagen Group, with some common platforms spanning four makes: Audi, Volkswagen, SEAT and Skoda for models including the A3, Golf, Toledo, and Octavia.
This common platform trend is not limited to vehicles from the same OEM, however. Ferrari and Maserati, for example, reportedly use a common platform for their respective California and GrandTurismo. The development history is complex, with Maserati previously owned by Ferrari and now in the Fiat stable. Further, Fiat adapted the GrandTurismo platform for the 8C Competizione sports car sold by group company Alfa Romeo.

Now comes the question. At what price point would one opt for the status of a Ferrari over a Maserati given similar levels of luxury and performance? OK, the Ferrari outsprints the highest performance Maserati by 0.6 seconds in the 0-60 mph dash, but if you’re not on a racing circuit or breaking the law, that performance is hard to test. The answer appears to be around $44,500 in the U.S.: $192,000 for the California versus around $147,500 for the top-of-the-range GrandTurismo.

Don't judge a car by its bodyI think I’d agree with such a premium, although I want to test drive both cars first. On a recent trip back to my home country of New Zealand, I had the privilege of taking a California for a spin and yes the car is mind-blowing and exhilarating to drive, albeit I found the experience exhausting, probably because of the mental strain of being behind the wheel of a car whose power I was unaccustomed to. I did have my mind set on a second-hand Maserati once I retire many years from now but that could change now.

From the supercar end of the market I’d like to look now at the subcompact end, where platform sharing is also going on. One particular common platform attracted my attention. I’m not sure how many of you have heard of the Toyota iQ, a city car typically powered by a sub-1-liter engine. Well it just happens that the Aston Martin Cygnet is based on the very same platform. In the U.K. it costs around $49,000 compared with less than $18,000 for the iQ. Now that’s some premium!