Aston Martin has some big plans to start electrifying its line-up — but they’re going to depend on the help of its German ally, Mercedes-Benz, to pull off a program set to deliver a mix of plug-in hybrids and pure battery-electric vehicles.
By 2024, Aston wants fully 20% of its volume to come from electrified vehicles, including a PHEV version of its new DBX, the sport-utility vehicle expected to be its top seller. An all-electric models will follow, but not until 2025 or 2026, according to the luxury brand’s CEO.
The British automaker has been in turmoil complicated by the coronavirus pandemic, weak sales, cash problems, management turmoil — and growing pressure to deliver zero-emission vehicles in some of its key markets.
The program under development will mark a dramatic shift from what had been envisioned by former Aston CEO Andy Palmer who intended to use the revived Lagonda badge for electrified offerings. “Lagonda has a different purpose for the future,” Tobias Moers, CEO of Aston, told reporters during a call.
Moers provides a direct link between Aston and Mercedes as the former head of the German marque’s high-performance AMG division. He was brought in earlier this year to replace Palmer who was ousted last May by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll who pulled together a $663 million bailout for Aston.
The two companies have had ties since 2013, Mercedes providing AMG-tuned V-8s and infotainment systems to its partner. Under the plan announced last week, the Germans will add additional electronic technology and electric drive systems — while also upping their stake in Aston from 2.6 to as much as 20%.
Under Palmer, Aston had already begun dabbling in electrification, the British automaker introducing an all-electric, limited-edition version of its four-door Rapide. Palmer, the one-time global product chief at Nissan, also envisioned reviving the moribund Lagonda as an all-electric sub-brand. He launched development of the DBX plug-in and also started work on an F1-style hybrid option for the Valhalla supercar.
Moers will move ahead with the DBX PHEV, with a launch of 2023 planned. He also indicated Valhalla will get its hybrid drive system. The key difference is that these projects likely will rely on Mercedes-derived electric drive systems. The same will be the case for the fully electric model not expected to reach production until mid-decade now.
The switch with the Valhalla project comes as something of a surprise, however, as Aston had already invested heavily in its own, electrified program, codenamed TM01, which was to have been based around a twin-turbo V-6 developed in-house and all but ready to go into production.
It is possible that Aston may yet stick with that program, Moers said, noting, “We are still working on that (homegrown hybrid], but we now have alternatives. It’s too early to say” what decision will be made.
In his interview, the new CEO said a “product firework” will be launched by Aston using Mercedes technology, starting around the end of 2022 or early in 2023. That is expected to include a replacement for the current DB11 model.
“The expansion of our partnership with Mercedes-Benz AG is a critical step towards achieving our goals for Aston Martin,” Moers said in a letter emailed to the media and others on Monday. “The capabilities of Mercedes-Benz AG technology will be fundamental to ensure our future products remain competitive and will allow us to invest efficiently in the areas that truly differentiate the products that we can offer to you.”
For Mercedes, the potential impact could come in a variety of ways. For one thing, it needs Aston to be successful if it’s to get a payoff from the increased stake in the British company. Meanwhile, finding an additional outlet for its technology, especially its electric drive systems, will help boost economies of scale and help down drive costs.