Design Essay: What is a ‘luxury’ car?

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With more and more brands going upmarket, it is worth examining this often-misused term…

The idea of a ‘luxury car’ is one with which we’re all undoubtedly familiar. Small wonder, given the concept is almost as old as the motor industry itself. Nevertheless, there can have been few points in history when such vehicles captured the zeitgeist quite as they do today.

The ever-expanding finances of the ‘rich’ and ‘super-rich’, along with the opening of vast new markets (China, Russia, etc.) and a prevailing culture of ‘bling’ and conspicuous consumption has led to huge expansion in the global market for high-end vehicles, along with the revitalisation and rapid growth of formerly decrepit brands such as Lamborghini, Maserati, Bentley and Aston Martin.

What is striking however, is that while ‘luxury cars’ have become so prominent in our collective consciousness and popular culture, the phrase itself (like several other automotive terms) has become vague, ambiguous and difficult to truly define thanks to frequent misuse.

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