When mass automakers go after luxury brands

What happens when the mass automakers of economy autos decide to add luxury to their act?

Strange bedfellows
mass market vs luxury - mahindra tractor aston martin vanquish

The news couldn't have come at a worse time. Just as Skyfall was packing pre-Christmas movie theatres, there was word that James Bond's favorite automaker, Aston Martin, was falling further into foreign hands. Published reports had it that Indian tractor maker Mahindra and Mahindra was eager to buy up to half of Aston from a Kuwaiti investment group.

The disclosure ignited much handwringing. What would ownership by a maker of farm equipment from the subcontinent mean to the very British high-end Aston brand? "It's difficult to visualize a tractor and an Aston Martin in the same garage," said Mads Kaiser, a Denmark-based fund manager, quoted by Reuters.

In fact, high-end automotive brands have for decades been used like shiny Christmas ornaments to brighten the image of manufacturers of more pedestrian products -- some with more success than others. Here's a look at how mass has handled class.

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated December 06 2012 12:49 PM ET
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