Little Aston Martin has some big plans. With a flood of new cash from key investors, new CEO Andy Palmer says the British maker will soon have its largest line-up of products ever, a mix that will include traditional Aston sports cars, big sedans, even a battery-electric version of the DBX sport-utility vehicle concept unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show last March.
The product blitz is part of a broader effort to fix a business model that “is broken,” said Palmer, who joined Aston last autumn after a long career at Nissan capped as the Japanese maker’s global product chief.
“We’ve been beating this dead horse for a long time,” Palmer told TheDetroitBureau.com during an interview in California, where he had come for the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. As a result, it has suffered seven bankruptcies over the last 102 years, along with several “near misses.”
Aston, Palmer stressed, has to do more than just try to get by with a handful of “bold beautiful cars.”
In May, Aston Martin lined up a £200 million, or roughly $300 million, cash infusion from its primary shareholders, Italy’s Investindustrial and Tejara Capital.
For a major automaker, like rival Mercedes-AMG, that might not measure up, but with Aston’s balance sheet now operating in the black, Palmer said, it should have the funds necessary to develop a line-up that includes three classic sports cars, two sedans wearing the Lagonda badge, a yet-secret “halo car,” and the production version of the DBX.
The DBX that will reach Aston showrooms late in the decade will have a number of differences from the concept version, among other things opting for a four-door body. But the plan is to still come up with an electrified powertrain option that, according to Palmer, would deliver range of as much as 200 miles per charge.
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The 800-horsepower drivetrain likely will be shared with other products, in fact, and that is expected to include one of the new Aston Martin Sports cars. There’s a growing push among luxury brands to use battery technology to boost performance, as much for enhanced fuel efficiency. Audi is planning to show off its own extended-range electric SUV at the Frankfurt Motor Show next month. And TheDetroitBureau.com last week revealed that the next version of the iconic BMW M3 will be powered by a plug-in hybrid drivetrain.
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According to Aston CEO Palmer, the goal is to adopt a seven-year lifecycle for new products. The maker will stagger their introduction so that it has one all-new model to debut each year. That strategy, he believes, should ensure Aston showrooms always have something fresh and exciting to sell.
Among the changes Palmer wants to implement, he plans more use of market research, so, “We’re not designing for the CEO but for our customers, which is new for us.” That should help improve the brand’s appeal to women and he noted that the lead designer for the new DBX is Aston’s first female stylist.
While the British-born Palmer wouldn’t discuss specific timing, he noted it has been “widely speculated” that the DBX will reach production by 2019.
What Palmer does say is that, “I expect it to be” the best-seller in the Aston Martin stable. That’s in line with forecasts by other luxury makers, such as Bentley which also expects its new Bentayga ute to become its top-seller.
As for the rest of the Aston Martin line-up, Palmer expects to hold production to no more than 7,000 sedans and sports cars annually to maintain the brand’s exclusivity.
Financially, Aston is doing “really well this year,” concluded Palmer, and that should help Aston move ahead with its admittedly ambitious product program.
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