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.”