Conde Nast Publications, parent of Architectural Digest and Vogue, in October will launch Architectural Digest Motoring, a regular special issue dedicated to drivers' love affairs with their cars. The following month, Hachette Filipacchi Magazines, publisher of Elle and George, will debut Elle Ultimate Road Trips, offering new road rules for the fashion-forward.
"There are magazines for food, travel, home, even cigars," said Architectural Digest Motoring Publisher Peter Hunsinger, "but there's nothing that celebrates the automobile from the upscale-lifestyle point of view."
With the economy still humming and consumer confidence still seemingly strong, the birth of high-end niche magazines was only a matter of time. Newsstands may be cluttered with titles, but the car category apparently isn't.
LUXURY MORE ACCESSIBLE
Dominated by Hachette's Car & Driver and Road & Track, auto publications' content has been typically confined to what's under the hood. The most recent crop of titles attempts to concentrate on the experience of being behind the wheel. In part, that's because luxury is more accessible than ever before.
U.S. market share for European luxury vehicles is projected to rise to 39% by yearend, from 23% in 1990, according to J.D. Power & Associates. Total sales of luxury vehicles in 1998 reached an estimated $41 billion, up from $33.5 billion in 1995.
"As larger chunks of the population gain more disposable income, they will be buying more luxury cars," said Greg Kagay, auto analyst for Arnhold & S. Bleichroeder.
Lifestyle magazines centered around single subjects weren't popular twenty or thirty years ago because they didn't have adequate ad support, said Jim Hall, an analyst at consultancy Auto Pacific. But with baby boomers in their peak earning years, more advertisers are competing for a share of their money.
Advertisers for the first issue of Architectural Digest Motoring include not only auto marques such as Porsche and Rolls-Royce's Bentley, but luxury goods and men's wear brands such as Cartier, Ralph Lauren, Rolex and Nautica.
The 160-page special issue will be polybagged with the October AD, going to its subscriber base of 665,000. An additional 60,000 copies will be available on newsstands, with a $4 cover price. The next issues will come in May and October 2000.
REACHES FOR NEW CUSTOMERS
Patricia Garcy-Gottfried, director of media for Nautica International, said she thinks the magazine will reach a customer base that other car books do not.
"Readers with taste, who are aspirational, who have an interest in cars and, of course, have high household income" will be attracted to the magazine, she said.
"Architectural Digest found a way for us to get into automobiles that is not about fuel injection and Turtle Wax," she said.
The first Architectural Digest Motoring features Kevin Costner on the cover and includes a piece by Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Updike detailing his first car and history with cars.
It also will tout special sections, such as "Mogul's Cars," complete with portraits of corporate VIPs and their personal wheels.
7 YEARS IN THE WORKS
Editor in Chief Paige Rense said she's been trying to produce the magazine for the past seven years, ever since she ran across an Italian consumer car magazine, Automobilia, that inspired her.
'ELLE' IS FOR WOMEN
Elle Ultimate Road Trips, meanwhile, will cater to its parent's predominantly female audience with columns such as "Great Style," a review of driving accessories, and "Trunk Show," highlighting distinctive fashions for road travel.
"Fashion has evolved to embody the fashionable lifestyle, including the kinds of trips people take," said Elle Editor in Chief Elaina Richardson. "We hope to bring the spirit of luxury to the road trip."
"Our magazine is not about what is under the hood of a Jaguar," said Publisher Carl Portale. "It is about selecting the right sunglasses, about what to do with your hair while you are driving in a convertible, what to pack in the glove compartment."
Like Motoring, the Hachette book initially will be a one-timer, distributed to 650,000 U.S. subscribers and an estimated 125,000 newsstand readers in Boston, Los Angeles and New York.
Elle Ultimate Road Trips is scheduled to appear again in the spring and fall of