Aston Martin begins new-product blitz to raise its profile – Detroit Free Press
As the $214,820 DB11 begins to arrive in U.S. dealerships, legendary but little-known British luxury brand Aston Martin has set out to raise its profile as it begins a new-model offensive unlike anything in its 104-year history.
The DB11 is the latest in a line of classic European “GT” cars that have been key to Aston’s image for decades. It’s also one of the first steps in a plan to broaden the niche automaker’s lineup and boost sales far beyond the 4,000 a year Aston traditionally built, said Matthew Clarke, Aston Martin Americas marketing chief.
Along the way, the brand best known as James Bond’s car of choice needs to raise its profile and introduce itself to new generations of wealthy buyers.
Aston Martin has the most secure financing and detailed strategy in company history, thanks to a handful of investors who bought the company when Ford broke up its Premier Auto Group in 2007. Funded largely by Kuwaiti and Italian investors, Aston will invest $1 billion in a product plan that takes it to the end of the decade. Aston also has access to engine and electronic technologies it can’t develop on its own through an alliance with Mercedes-Benz.
The DB11 is true to the company’s heritage of building European-style Grand Touring cars, 2+2 seat luxury cars with loads of power but more room and comfort than a traditional exotic sports car. James Bond’s original ride was a DB5, the new car’s direct ancestor.
The DB11 oozes power and technology thanks to a 600-horsepower, 5.2-liter twin-turbo V12 engine the company builds in Germany, a bonded extruded aluminum body and chassis, cast magnesium door structures. Luxury touches include a leather interior, embroidered head rests, exotic interior trim and optional “jewelry packs” for the paddle shifters, door pulls, steering wheel switches and more.
Building great GT cars has always been Aston’s strength, but CEO Andy Palmer created a plan to move the brand into larger and more stable market segments. He’s an Englishman who had spent decades with Nissan, who joined Aston in 2014 after more than two decades with Nissan that included responsibility for global product planning for Nissan and its Infiniti luxury brand.
Palmer plans to replace every Aston Martin and add several new models by 2020. Highlights include:
Reviving the Lagonda brand of big and luxurious sedans with a car that will probably compete with the top of BMW’s lineup, perhaps even super-luxury brands like Bentley.
A sporty and luxurious SUV based on the DBX concept vehicle will be in production by 2020 in a new factory in Wales.
An electric vehicle based on the Rapide S sport sedan.
A Volante convertible version of the DB11 in 2018.
A $2-$3 million Formula One inspired “hypercar” developed with Red Bull Racing and based on the AMRB-001 concept car.
Replacement for the V8 Vantage sports car
Aston sells about 4,000 cars a year now, all of them sports cars like the Vantage, GTs like DB11 and the Rapide S. The company will cap production of cars like that at about 7,000 a year and another 4,000 to 5,000 SUVs annually.
Despite the ambitious growth plan, Aston is happy with the 36 U.S. dealers who currently sell about 1,000 vehicles a year.
“Our challenge in North America is awareness,” Clarke said. “Nobody will buy your car if they’ve never heard of you. Raising the brand’s profile will be our top task for the next few years.”
Contact Mark Phelan: 313-222-6731 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mark_phelan.