Catching Up With …
PRESIDENT ASTON MARTIN THE AMERICAS
Laura Schwab, president of Aston Martin Americas, dishes on the state of the automaker and how she would like to help women achieve their goals in the auto industry.
LO U I S V I L L E , K E N T U C K Y, N AT I V E Laura Schwab had no idea she would launch herself into a successful career in the automotive industry when she quit working as a lawyer to join a startup in Southern California focused on car-configuration technology, but life has a funny way of working itself out. From that experience, she landed a job with Jaguar Land Rover, where she learned the business and took on numerous roles as she rose through the ranks. The wealth and depth of experience she gained along the way led Aston Martin to tap her for its top role here in America, a responsibility she assumed in 2015.
You’ve come on with Aston Martin at a pretty fortuitous time given its rebirth of sorts, framed by its history …
LS: I think the timing for me couldn’t have been better. To join the organization at this time in our history with the trajectory and what we’re doing, and now two years in, to really watch the plan unfold and to be in this role and to have this influence— I’m probably enjoying it more than any other point in my career.
How much of Aston’s recent growth is fueled by the Americas, and does it come with increased expectations?
LS: The role of this region is crucial for our business as a collective and as a global company. So we’re really proud of that, and we’re proud of the growth for 2017. So it brings a bit of pressure, but it wasn’t any pressure that didn’t already exist. Again, that’s why I joined the company; I knew that this is what we’re on the path to do. And with that success comes a desire for more success. That’s a good thing.
How did getting NFL superstar Tom Brady as an Aston brand ambassador come about?
LS: It really started with him.
He loved the brand; that wasn’t something we knew. We knew a couple of the people on his team, and he came to us. He actually also got in touch with Marek Reichman, our chief creative officer. He’s someone that we consider one of, if not the greatest athlete of all time. A real gentleman who really epitomizes so much of what we stand for. It actually felt like the perfect match.
Aston is back in Formula 1, as title sponsor and partner with Red Bull Racing. How do you leverage that in America?
LS: I think the opportunity is really the relationship and the connection we’ve made with Red Bull and having Aston Martin and Red Bull Racing paired together. For us, we’ve got [F1 races in] Montreal, we’ve got Austin, and then we have Mexico. So we have three races [in North America] that we’re really focused on. But I think for us, again, that partnership with Red Bull—it says something about the brand and that there’s a real cool factor to it.
In Geneva you showed the Lagonda Vision concept. Do you think the time is right for ultraluxury customers to embrace EVs and autonomy?
LS: I think right now’s a perfect time, and I think they’re already doing it. And the response so far to Geneva, I wouldn’t say that, oh we’re overwhelmed, we didn’t expect it. We did expect it. But just to sort of draw the curtain back and just see what our vision looks like for electric vehicles, I think it really surprised people, but in a really positive way.
The V8 Vantage is shaping up to be fantastic car. How has the response been so far?
LS: When we first got a vehicle here, we had an event for our VIP customers. We have the car under the silk, we do the whole build-up to it, and we unveil it. And literally screams, squeals, jumping up and down. That’s the beauty of what cars can do, and certainly an Aston Martin. They generate an emotion, and they make you feel something in your heart and your soul, and we think especially all these new vehicles we’re introducing and the new Vantage do that. Seeing customers respond that way just … that makes all the hard work worth it, right?
How has your personal relationship with cars evolved over the years?
LS: Even though I grew up in love with sports, once I got in the car business, it was very easy to fall in love with cars. Because cars make you feel something. They generate emotions in people. I think since I’ve joined Aston, it’s changed a bit because it’s even more emotional for me. I’ll never forget the first time I saw a DB11, and that’s the car I drive. But the first time I saw it, the first time I’d really looked at a car and felt like, this is overwhelming, I was like, do I have chill bumps? What is this feeling? Because I’d never seen cars that looked so beautiful to me.
How well are women represented in the automotive industry?
LS: I think it’s something that, getting more women to desire and want a career in automotive, I feel like I have a personal opportunity to help encourage women, whether it’s automotive or any other field that they feel like has historically been dominated by men. I do feel like I have a role to play to encourage them, you know, anything you want, any career. I’ve been really lucky because I’ve had a lot of people mentor me and look out for me, and I’ve kind of worked my ass off to get here. But I do think that I have a role to play as a role model for young girls and for other women in this space. If I can encourage one person to break through a barrier that they think exists, then I hope I’m that person that helps them.