Catch­ing Up With …


Automobile - - Contents - By Mike Floyd

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.

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