A note to Aston Martin CEOs: beware the Ides of May.
It’s been two years, May 2020 to be exact, since automotive veteran Andy Palmer was forced out as Chief Executive Officer of Aston Martin Lagonda and replaced with the CEO of Mercedes-AMG, Tobias Moers, after more than 25 years at Daimler AG.
Now, it seems the same thing is happening to Moers, as the British luxury automaker replacing him with Amedeo Felisa, the former CEO of Ferrari NV. Felisa spent 26 years in leadership roles at Ferrari, including eight as CEO from 2008 to 2016. He ran product development at Alfa Romeo before joining Ferrari. Currently a non-executive director at Aston Martin, Amedeo has been appointed an Executive Director.
What Aston Martin is seeking
Reading between the lines of Aston Martin’s press release, it seems the carmaker is looking not just for technical expertise, but the same product development savvy Felisa brought to Ferrari as Aston Martin tackles electrifying its line-up. Felisa is also expected by the board to restructure the company with a focus on expanding its technical team, according to the company.
To that end, the company has also hired former Ferrari engineer Roberto Fedeli as chief technical officer. Fedeli was Ferrari’s technical director from 2006 to 2014, and created the Italian automaker’s first hybrid supercar, the Ferrari LaFerrari, as well as other models during his time there. He also spent time at BMW, where he led the i8 plug-in hybrid roadster into production. He returned as Chief Technical Officer for Alfa Romeo and Maserati in 2016.
Fedeli starts at Aston Martin on July 1. The auto manufacturer also said it plans to promote internal talent and hire additional staff to bolster its tech team, with announcements coming in several weeks.
Why it happened
This begs a question: was Moers leaning too much on Mercedes-Benz for automotive expertise? Not really.
As both CEO and CTO, Moers possessed the requisite technical knowledge. But he also possessed a “robust management style” that sunk morale, according to The Financial Times. Now, Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, now Aston Martin Lagonda Executive Chairman, said the company is seeking to separate the two roles and looking for a more collaborative CEO.
Stroll also told the FT that he, “wanted someone who understood and experienced luxury and higher price products.” He said that Moers had stabilized Aston’s operations and manufacturing, but a CEO with a broader vision was needed.
Where’s the money honey?
Beyond management style, there’s also the question of profitability, never a sure thing for the British automaker that has declared bankruptcy seven times during the past century and survived.
For the first quarter, Aston Martin Lagonda reported a pre-tax loss of £111.6 million ($139.15 million) for the first quarter, a £42 million ($52.4 million) increase from the first quarter in 2021, despite sales rising 4% in sales to £233 million ($290.9 million).
The company said the loss came as a result of higher depreciation charges as the company planned to release hybrid variants of its current models before its first pure battery electric vehicle arrives in 2025.
But the question remains how long will Felisa have the role as CEO, one that increasingly resembles the job of drummer in the fictional music group Spinal Tap. Stroll described Felisa, 76, as “young at heart,” according to The Financial Times, one who will keep his role, “for the foreseeable future.”