Mys­tery woman

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Prestige - PAUL GOVER CHIEF REPORTER

A WOMAN called Char­lotte is the most im­por­tant mem­ber of the de­vel­op­ment team for As­ton Martin’s com­ing sports SUV, known as the DBX.

She’s not a stylist or an en­gi­neer. She is not an As­ton Martin em­ployee. She’s not even real.

Char­lotte is the vir­tual woman that As­ton is us­ing to an­swer the key ques­tions for the DBX, a ve­hi­cle that — as Cayenne did with Porsche — will take the Bri­tish sports car com­pany into the fam­ily car busi­ness for the first time.

She is help­ing with crit­i­cal choices on the DBX pro­ject and also the new gen­er­a­tion of sports and GT cars to fol­low As­ton’s DB11, which was un­veiled at the Geneva mo­tor show ear­lier this month.

“Us­ing a proxy cus­tomer to es­tab­lish a set of prod­uct at­tributes is fairly com­mon in­dus­try prac­tice — au­tos and non-au­tos, in fact,” says As­ton Martin global di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions Si­mon Sproule.

“It’s not about mak­ing a spe­cific prod­uct for fe­males but be­com­ing more rel­e­vant and ap­peal­ing to a broader de­mo­graphic, both in terms of gen­der, global pop­u­la­tion and gen­er­a­tion.

“We are striv­ing to take into ac­count dif­fer­ing needs and at­ti­tudes when de­vel­op­ing and mar­ket­ing new prod­ucts within our se­cond-cen­tury plan. This means en­sur­ing that we are a rel­e­vant brand and have rel­e­vant prod­ucts for both gen­ders with­out alien­at­ing ei­ther.”

He is one of the key peo­ple be­hind Char­lotte and the fe­male-first de­vel­op­ment work that prom­ises to put a new spin on the com­pany.

“We know that our cars have ap­peal from both sexes. We would sim­ply like to make more women the pri­mary pur­chaser of an As­ton Martin,” he says.

“Tra­di­tion­ally, the im­age of As­ton Martin as a brand is con­sid­ered to be rel­a­tively mas­cu­line — ‘a gen­tle­men’s car’ — of­ten driven by as­so­ci­a­tions with James Bond and a largely male cus­tomer base.

“There has been a sig­nif­i­cant shift over the past decade from fe­males be­ing per­ceived as gift re­cip­i­ents to­wards be­ing in­de­pen­dent pur­chasers in their own right, within the lux­ury in­dus­try.

“Fe­males are play­ing an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant role glob­ally in the growth of the lux­ury goods mar­ket. With in­creased con­fi­dence and fi­nan­cial in­de­pen­dence, fe­males are in­creas­ingly buy­ing into lux­ury sports ve­hi­cles.”

Char­lotte’s fo­cus is on the DBX but she is not the only vir­tual woman in the plan.

“We have es­tab­lished a core fe­male ad­vi­sory board, which we are con­tin­u­ing to de­velop through 2016,” Sproule says.

“Through this ini­tia­tive we have en­gaged with groups of fe­males glob­ally to help un­der­stand be­hav­iours, life­style, needs and per­cep­tions and how we can be­come a more ap­peal­ing brand and en­gage in a more rel­e­vant way.

“In our busi­ness, we have many fe­males work­ing through­out the busi­ness through de­sign, en­gi­neer­ing and on the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee.

“(Char­lotte) rep­re­sents a group of cus­tomers that have a sim­i­lar need for a more ver­sa­tile lux­ury sports ve­hi­cle.

“We have a proxy cus­tomer for each of our se­cond cen­tury mod­els. The broad­en­ing of our tar­get is not lim­ited to gen­der, but in­volves un­der­stand­ing the gen­er­a­tion gap and how we re­main a rel­e­vant brand (for) global gen­er­a­tions.”

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