GENEVA — European luxury brands such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Aston Martin used last week's Geneva auto show to make a splash at the top of the luxury market dominated by VW Group's sprawling yet integrated empire of upscale brands.
At times, it got ugly, even if the cars were anything but.
Their problem is not just competing against Audi, Porsche, Bentley or Lamborghini, but the combined firepower of all four.
"The VW Group has a huge advantage over other European luxury automakers in terms of the breadth of its luxury portfolio," said Ian Fletcher, principal automotive analyst at IHS Markit. "They have an unsurpassed ability to share key technologies, which allows these brands to enter spaces that they may not have had the resources to do alone."
For example, Bentley, the largest global ultraluxury brand, used Porsche's V-6 plug-in hybrid technology to launch its first electrified model: the Bentayga Hybrid SUV.
Porsche, meanwhile, showed a crossover concept based on its Mission E electric sedan, which arrives next year on an EV platform developed with Audi. That platform is also expected to be shared with Bentley.
"As electrification becomes more popular, we're going to be faster and more ready than any competitor," Bentley's new CEO, Adrian Hallmark, told Automotive News. "That's the advantage of being able to access technologies from which we can pick and choose."
Audi used the show to unveil its high-tech A6 sedan, built on the Audi-developed next-generation MLB platform that will be picked up by other VW Group brands. "If they would need it, no problem. I don't mind that. We are a big family. We trust each other," Audi chief Rupert Stadler told Automotive News.
VW Group CEO Matthias Mueller saw only upsides to this sharing across brands. "We earn more money, we are faster and we have more power than our competition," he said. "The customer gets a technology that is well proved for good money. What could be better?"