Aston Martin's perplexing decision to rebadge a Toyota iQ minicar could be explained, possibly, if the car were sold only in big European cities that impose vehicle congestion charges.
But now there's surprising word that the Cygnet will be sold in the United States as well. That may make sense in congested Manhattan and for the freeway commutes in cities such as Los Angeles, Seattle and Miami. But this Aston surely will betray the basic underpinnings of the budget-priced Toyota it is based on.
What happens with the Cygnet is a sideshow compared with the launch this year of the Rapide sedan. The rest of the Aston Martin lineup looks to benefit from some redesigns on the horizon and from technical updates.
Here is Aston Martin's product plan through 2014.
Cygnet: In an about-face, Aston Martin executives said the minicar indeed will come to the United States in 2012. The rebadged Toyota iQ, once planned only for Europe, initially will be equipped with a 1.3-liter gasoline engine. An electric-only version with a 60-mile range will arrive in 2013. Toyota will ship assembled iQs to Aston Martin's Gaydon, England, plant. The Toyota interior will be upgraded, but no mechanical changes are planned.
Those who want an Aston on the cheap are out of luck; only current Aston owners can buy one. Price? Figure about $35,000.
Vantage: The V-12 version of the Vantage went on sale in the United States this year. A freshening will come in 2011. Expect a redesign in 2014 or 2015.
DB9: A redesign is set for 2013, with styling cues borrowed from the limited-edition One-77 coupe. No word on whether it will be called the DB-10. Expect Aston to stick with the aluminum spaceframe for another generation before the car moves to carbon fiber.
DBS: No major changes are planned.
Rapide: The big sedan went on sale in the United States this year with a sticker price just over $200,000. A 470-hp, 6.0-liter V-12 propels four occupants in relative comfort. The Rapide is assembled by Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria, rather than in Gaydon.
One-77: The limited-edition coupe has a carbon fiber structure and a carbon fiber and aluminum body. Power comes from a 740-hp, 7.3-liter V-12 engine. Aston Martin expects to sell 77 units at about $2 million a pop. Production will start by year end.
Lagonda SUV: The bizarre all-wheel-drive crossover from the 2009 Geneva auto show has been killed. It's not for lack of money. The concept car's design was hammered by critics.
Lagonda sedan: Complaints that the Rapide's back seat is not fit for man or beast has Aston scrambling to stretch the wheelbase and create an actual sedan that will carry the Lagonda name. But that's at least four years away.