Pity poor James Bond. It’s a rare film in which he gets to drive off into the sunset, the villain vanquished and his car in one piece. All the worse when you consider he’s typically wrecked an Aston Martin.
The DB11 is the long-awaited successor to the Aston Martin DB9 seen in several earlier Bond adventures and considered one of the most beautiful sports cars ever to wear the brand’s winged badge since Aston founders Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford came together in 1913. (The Aston in its name refers to the hill where the two originally raced their vehicles.)
Seven Bankruptcies Later
Having gone through seven bankruptcies over the past 104 years, Aston is suddenly flush with new capital and a new management team that intends to spend it on a torrent of new products that will include not only the expected mix of sports cars, but the brand’s first sport-utility vehicle, as well as a first-ever battery-electric vehicle.
In all, seven new models are in the works, more products for Aston showrooms than the brand has ever had before. It’s the sort of ambitious strategy that seemed unlikely to happen until two years ago when new CEO Andy Palmer was lured away from Nissan. Palmer quickly negotiated new investments that pulled Aston back from what many thought was going to be its eighth financial collapse.
Palmer also negotiated a series of new partnerships, including a critical one with Daimler AG, allowing it to share the V-8 engine developed by the German maker’s high-performance AMG division. It will show up in several new Aston products later this decade.
The Valkyrie Hybrid
Aston has also been working on engines of its own, including the 600-horsepower V-12 in the DB11.
The British maker pulled the wraps off the most extreme of its new offerings during the Geneva Motor Show earlier this month. Named for the Norse angels who carried fallen warriors off the battlefield, the Aston Martin Valkyrie is the product of an alliance with Red Bull Advanced Technologies.
The limited-edition Valkyrie will use a hybrid gas-electric drivetrain developed by Red Bull’s Formula One racing team. And while final numbers have yet to be released, Aston CEO Andy Palmer said the hypercar’s final output “has to be at least 1,000 horsepower.”
Much More to Come
The DB11 is the first new Aston model to reach showrooms since 2014, but Palmer says he expects to put one additional model on the street each year through early in the next decade. It’s an aggressive timetable that has garnered a fair share of skepticism, especially considering the maker’s sales slide in recent years. Volume plunged from 7,200 to just 3,700 last year.
“The brand has a tremendous amount of recognition, and people love it.”
For her part, Laura Schwab, the maker’s U.S. CEO insists that’s no surprise in a highly competitive sports car segment that demands constantly fresh product. But with plenty in the pipeline, she is expecting a strong rebound. “The brand has a tremendous amount of recognition, and people love it,” she says, as she joins journalists returning from a day’s ride in the DB11.
One good sign is the rebound on the marque’s bottom line. Aston’s earnings before interest, depreciation and amortization, or EBIDA, jumped from 92 million to 101 million British pounds from 2007 to 2016, even though unit sales dropped by nearly half.
The DB11 is likely to be the immediate test for Aston, and it got a send-up from the most recent Bond film, SPECTRE, where a prototype, dubbed the DB10, was Agent 007’s ride of choice. Aston officials hint the next spy thriller will feature even newer models, though they’re not saying which ones.
Not all that long ago, it looked like even Bond, James Bond, couldn’t save the British maker. But the maker seems to have pulled off the type of rescue that even the superspy might not have expected.