From V12 en­gines to elec­tric for As­ton – now that’s ‘news’


story and As­ton obliged.

As­ton Martin said that ex­ports from its UK plants (in Gay­don and St Athan) to Ja­pan of its lux­ury sports cars will be worth over £400 mil­lion over the next five years. That’s great news for work­ers here of course – but I’m not sure it is ac­tu­ally “new” news.

Through its “Sec­ond Cen­tury Strat­egy”, the firm aims to dou­ble sales by 2022 (and in­tro­duce seven new mod­els in seven years).

To do that, it needs to be big in Ja­pan. The lat­ter is the sec­ond big­gest lux­ury mar­ket in the world so if As­ton was not sell­ing this sort of numbers of cars there over the next five years, it would not be hit­ting its own strate­gic tar­gets.

As­ton Martin also plans to spend more than £70 mil­lion over the pe­riod in com­po­nents from Ja­panese sup­pli­ers in­clud­ing Bridge­stone, Denso, Mit­subishi and Yazaki.

As­ton Martin was care­ful not to say whether that would be im­ports from Ja­pan or sourced from Ja­panese sup­pli­ers in the UK (which would gen­er­ate more jobs here).

The “news” also in­cluded a new As­ton Martin Ja­pan HQ (again this has been on the cards for a while) and growth of the As­ton Martin dealer net­work across Ja­pan (again needed to gen­er­ate sales).

What was re­ally new was that the car maker said it would cre­ate an “As­ton Martin Meta Tech­nol­ogy and Lux­ury Ac­cel­er­a­tor” of­fice in Ja­pan, to open in 2018.

I was left scratch­ing my head about this but thank­fully Mr Palmer helped out : “To en­sure we are fo­cused on the needs of Ja­panese and Asian cus­tomers, we are cre­at­ing a Meta Tech­nol­ogy and Lux­ury Ac­cel­er­a­tor of­fice in Tokyo, re­port­ing di­rectly to HQ, to de­velop in­sights into lux­ury cus­tomer be­hav­iour in Asia.

“This ad­vanced prod­uct plan­ning of­fice is be­ing cre­ated specif­i­cally to tap into re­search and tech­nolo­gies in the elec­tric and con­nected car ar­eas as well as the in­no­va­tions Ja­pan is mak­ing in the lux­ury mar­ket.”

So it is about bet­ter un­der­stand­ing the lux­ury mar­ket in Ja­pan and ac­cess­ing new tech­nolo­gies be­ing de­vel­oped there. The lat­ter in­cludes elec­tric car tech­nol­ogy.

That is sig­nif­i­cant as As­ton Martin said only re­cently that it would go 100 per cent hy­brid by the mid2020s, in line with some other car man­u­fac­tur­ers (what it means by that is ev­ery car in its range will use hy­brid tech­nol­ogy by then).

It will pro­duce its first elec­tric ve­hi­cle, the Rapid-e saloon, in 2019, and Mr Palmer has stated that around a quar­ter of the firm’s cars will be fully elec­tric by the end of the 2020s.

That is quite a change for a firm fa­mous for its V12 en­gines.

Yet, in­stead of buy­ing in elec­tric driv­e­trains from its part­ner Daim­ler, As­ton aims to de­velop them in-house, while buy­ing in elec­tric cells (pos­si­bly from Ja­pan).

The firm is un­der­go­ing an ex­cit­ing turn­around un­der Palmer’s watch af­ter years of losses, aim­ing to put the firm on a de­cent foot­ing and at­tract new in­vest­ment (I can still see a full Daim­ler takeover in the fu­ture – As­ton part­ners with the lat­ter at present to ac­cess tech­nol­ogy, buy­ing in V8 en­gines and elec­tron­ics).

Last week, the firm upped profit ex­pec­ta­tions for the year af­ter re­port­ing a £21 mil­lion pre-tax profit for the first half of 2017.

The firm’s Sec­ond Cen­tury Strat­egy en­vis­ages seven new mod­els in seven years, start­ing with the DB11, then Van­tage, Van­quish and DBX, its first SUV.

So, while much of the me­dia fo­cused on the trade and in­vest­ment “deal” an­nounced by As­ton Martin, the big story here, I feel, is its em­brace of elec­tri­fi­ca­tion.

Re­gard­less, hats off to As­ton Martin’s PR op­er­a­tion for gen­er­at­ing some great pub­lic­ity de­spite not say­ing much new at all. Pro­fes­sor David Bai­ley works at

the As­ton Busi­ness School

The big story here, I feel, is As­ton Martin’s em­brace of elec­tri­fi­ca­tion over the next few years

> As­ton Martin has re­vealed plans for its new Van­quish Za­gato model

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