ASTON: THE STATE OF PLAY
It needs more time, and confidence, to secure its position. By Georg Kacher
Aston Martin had a strong start to 2021. By year’s end, it had lost its momentum and Lawrence Stroll (the biggest shareholder, at 17 per cent, who put a claimed £500m of his own money into the company) was less than chuffed. With the Aston Martin Lagonda stock price still hovering below expectations, and the bulk of the turnaround process yet to be funded and completed, the mood barometer is currently best described as unstable.
A fashion-industry tycoon and dyed-inthe-wool motorsport enthusiast, Stroll is also an avid Ferrari admirer. His entrepreneurial goal is to beat the reds on the track and on the road. Thanks to CEO Tobias Moers and his team, the latter ambition is beginning to bear fruit. The DBX 707 meets the upcoming Ferrari Purosangue head-on, and the new mid-engined sports car provisionally named Vanquish, due in late 2024 or early 2025, has allegedly got what it takes to challenge Maranello’s awesome 296 GTB. Scheduled for 2025 is an EV attack which should yield two clean-air sports cars and one top-league crossover conceived in close cooperation with Mercedes-AMG.
While the next DBS is still on the drawing board, the Vantage and DB11 are to receive fresh infotainment systems later this year before heavy facelifts in ’23 and ’24. Meanwhile, Moers himself and the guys from Multimatic (of Ford GT and AMG One fame) must yet get the £2m-plus Valkyrie hypercar off the ground while simultaneously supporting creation of the Valhalla supercar expected to sell for around £700k apiece.
Speed is of the essence in the sports-car business, but due to the long development, testing, procurement, certification and assembly cycle, the gestation of a new model is still a four- to five-year process. In contrast, a new leisurewear collection takes six weeks from design freeze to shipping, and building next season’s F1 racer is at worst a five-month task. Which explains why Stroll may occasionally come across as impatient and pushy. The 63-year-old magnate had bought a stake in a company which only looked good from the outside when he signed on the dotted line in January 2020. He and CEO Andy Palmer parted company after five months of deteriorating co-existence, and AMG chief Moers did not hesitate to pick up an offer to replace him.
Although provided with a very limited budget, Moers was given carte blanche, and delivered despite mounting internal opposition. Instead of swamping dealers with unwanted stock, Aston switched to a demand-driven scheme, with three out of four vehicles built to order. In combination with shorter build times, streamlined processes (for instance, Valkyrie assembly was brought back in-house from an off-site facility) and enhanced personalisation by in-sourcing, the bottom line got fatter. Share value peaked at a post-IPO high of over €26.
Where to from here? The future of the Lagonda brand is a bone of contention, and implementing new breakthrough technologies like an advanced immersive cooling system for future EVs is potentially game-changing – but also highly risky for such a small and highly diversified car maker. The plan to shift an as yet unspecified portion of R&D work from England to Germany is in sync with strategies implemented by Bentley, Lotus and Rolls-Royce.
Although changing the big picture may take longer than planned, fresh products like the DBX 707 are living proof that Aston Martin is on the right track.