Despite having an illustrious catalogue of exquisite sports cars and being a darling of tinsel-town, Aston Martin always suffered financially. But the latest chapter in its corporate saga promises to shake things up substantially at this iconic British sports car company. We dig deeper
By: Somnath Chatterjee
Posted on: June 5, 2020
Is there any other carmaker that we feel so deeply connected to? The endless Bond references, the panache and yes the cars. The iconic ‘Goldfinger’ DB5 to the voluptuous DB9s via the Daniel Craig era DBS - Aston Martin had always elevated itself to the top of the pyramid when it comes to sheer desirability. And a lot of that stems from the aura surrounding the brand and the allure it still has to this day. There are other super car brands which are as cosseted as Aston Martin, but none could be cooler, and Sir Sean Connery might have something to do with that...
However, more than its box-office record, lately Aston Martin has been more in news for its endless financial troubles and the lack of monetary clarity which has been affecting the company.
But before we dig deeper into the current situation, looking back at Aston's history suggests that it’s never been as smooth as the svelte lines on its cars. Its ownership has changed several hands and that meant it never had the financial mettle to take on the likes of Ferrari or Lamborghini. Ferrari is cash rich and Lamborghini is under the massive Volkswagen empire - something Aston never had. To develop ground breaking sports cars you need endless reserves of cash and years of research. Plus with the automobile industry knocking its doors on a massive supposed shift towards electric mobility, the sports car has entered uncharted territory.
All these were huge obstacles in the way of this revered British marquee, however, the last decade has seen Aston Martin revitalize, and one of the reasons for that has been Andy Palmer. He came from Nissan, but being British and having an eye for both product development as well as company management, he seemed the right candidate for this top job. To give a brief back story, before he came to Aston Martin, the product line-up was ageing and the company needed a turn-around badly.
Mr. Palmer did exactly that, and within three years of joining, he made Aston Martin register a profit - a first for this decade. The line-up of products was set and a plan was chalked out by Mr. Palmer, which included a new sports car range, a new SUV, a new mid-engined line-up, new factory...et al. The crucial DB11 that had launched under him started off well and put Aston back as the maker of gorgeous GT cars.
But amidst this new found optimism, the biggest mistake made by Mr. Palmer was probably floating Aston Martin on the stock exchange. Share prices fell shortly after some time, plus the Vantage - expected to be the best selling Aston - failed to take off.
Meanwhile a new factory for the DBX SUV, plus Aston’s vast new product line-up, including bringing back its Lagonda as an EV luxury brand, had run into teething troubles. Financial woes thanks to the ongoing Coronavirus also only stoked that flame further.
In need of cash badly, in came Lawrence Stroll, a billionaire, Ferrari dealer, F1 team owner and fashion mogul. With him infusing much needed cash, the lofty product strategy of Aston Martin is saved for now and Mr. Stroll would also rename his F1 team as 'Aston Martin Racing', thereby connecting road-cars to the racing business. However, while initially expressing faith in Mr. Palmer, Mr. Stroll has shocked everyone and replaced him with Tobias Moers.
Who is Mr. Moers? He is the current boss of AMG. AMG supplies electronics plus engines to current Aston Martin cars, while Daimler, parent of Mercedes, owns 5 percent of Aston Martin. Connecting the dots? This move signifies the strengthening of the Mercedes and Aston Martin relationship. Mr. Moers had helped AMG in a massive sales expansion, thus making him the perfect candidate for the job. He turned AMG from a mere ‘performance’ division of Mercedes to a full Porsche rivaling performance car company with numerous new products being launched under him.
The same would be expected from him with his new job. Aston Martin is expected to go all guns blazing on the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Bentley and others. It would not be easy, owing to market and economic headwinds, but on the face of it, Mr. Moers seems to be a strong roll of the dice from Mr. Stroll.
In a way this makes the future of Aston Martin more secure. But what about the rather abrupt exit of Palmer? Well, while he may not have left this company in the best of ways, he will be remembered for engineering a turn-around with the relatively meagre resources that he had. The new product line as well as the cars in the pipeline envisioned by him show that it is indeed a remarkable achievement.
Thus, as things stand, the current plan to get the DBX luxury SUV rolling out of the new plant is well underway, and so is the Valkyrie hypercar with planned customer deliveries later this year, along with the mid-engined supercars like the Valhalla. However, the electric Rapide four-door as well as the much anticipated Lagonda has been put on the back-burner for now. So yes, despite all of the corporate drama engulfing Aston, it seems that 007's favourite getaway car lives for another day...