18 April 2016

Posh names and trim levels

Coinciding with Ford's launch of the Vignale name. A look back at top-end names and trim levels of everyday cars...

WHEN car manufacturers make a range of models for their cars. Almost every car has a trim name to be the model with a sporting look. Ford has Zetec and Audi has S-Line as trim names for sportier models of their cars.

At the other end of the scale, some manufacturers have made and given trim names for the plush models in their range of cars. Those that do distinguish them from their standard (or lower spec) cars.

Higher quality materials on the interior like: thick shag pile carpets, leather or velour seats and walnut veneer for example. Then you have a more generous list of standard equipment to the car, that comes with all the bells and whistles.

On the outside, a dash of chrome, a neat badge or emblem that marks out the car being the range topper. More often than not, cars in posh trim levels have always been available in more sober suited colours, like: silver, black, champagne gold, navy blue and emerald green. Some even came with two-tone paint jobs - a common sight in the 1980s. In the 1970s, a vinyl roof.

Allegro Vanden Plas: An art form of polishing a turd.

For many years, there has been a name known for making plush models for cars in the range. is Vanden Plas. Possibly the best known of everyday cars given a more luxurious makeover. Vanden Plas was a coach-builder. That became a subsidiary of BMC, later British Leyland and Austin Rover, that made plush of some hideous cars like the Allegro. At the other end of the scale, there was luxury Jaguars and Rovers that got the VP treatment.

Ford though, has recently launched Vignale (pronounced Vin-ya-lay) as a new posh trim name (sorry sub-brand) for their cars - the first one is on their current Mondeo. Ford claim that Vignale will be their sub-brand. They'd like you to think that, but in truth, it's actually a trim name that's top of the Mondeo range.

The Granada was a much loved Ford in Ghia specification.

But this isn't the first time the Blue Oval have carried out this practice on their cars. For many years, Ghia has adorned their range topping cars from the Fiesta to the Granada. Like Vanden Plas, it was a well known and well liked trim name who wanted a luxurious car that was more attainable. In 2010, the iconic Ghia name and emblem was retired by Ford after being the highest trim level on their cars for nearly 40 years. 

Since then, Titanium has been the trim name for posh Fords. Now that Vignale has taken that place - which is more or less a spiritual successor to Ghia. More so, that Vignale (funnily enough) originates from Italy - just like Ghia did. So you could argue that it has stronger links to Ghia than the Titanium moniker.

Besides Ford, there has been other manufacturers who have made cars with trim names (and badges) that represented being the luxury models. Today, Skoda has the Laurin & Klement name and badge on the Octavia and the Superb. Like what Ford has done with their use of the Vignale name, Skoda has dug into their heritage of choosing L&K to be the range toppers.

PSA Peugeot Citroën have gone on a brave new venture making DS a stand alone premium marque.

Citroën though, have gone through a similar avenue on making their premium-badged cars with their DS-line up of cars. With the DS3 for example. A premium small car to compete against MINI and Fiat 500. With a strong emphasis on quality, but also offered an endless array of options and customizations to personalise your car to suit your taste or budget. The French firm's approach was different to its MINI and 500 rival from not sporting a retro design.

With the success of the DS3, Citroën expanded the DS line-up with the DS4 and DS5 crossovers. Both which have been moderately successful. Given that, PSA Peugeot Citroën had got a lot of confidence in the DS cars. So they made a brave move of making DS a stand alone marque in its own right. In being the premium brand within the PSA Peugeot Citroën group to take on the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Following that decision, Citroën's double chevron has been stripped off their cars.

Back to the Blue Oval, they are being brave and ambitious with their launch of Vignale. They've promised buyers who buy a Vignale-specified Ford the special VIP treatment. Something you won't get if you parted around £30,000 for an equivalent Audi, BMW or Mercedes - of which you will if you spend the same amount on a Ford. No one's going to dispute that it is a LOT of money for a Ford.

Will people buy into the Vignale Fords? To be honest, the answer would be no. Not a lot of will and many will opt to buy German. Ford will not be regarded as an upmarket brand, and snobs will be quick to dismiss Vignale without any hesitation. Like I said before, you've got to applaud The Blue Oval for being brave and ambitious.

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