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Aston Martin says no to 4WD


Followers of luxury-branded soft-road wagons will have to live without an Aston Martin in the garage.

The famed British brand, which has just moved out of the Ford portfolio back into private ownership, has no plans to join everyone from Porsche and BMW to Audi and Mercedes in the four-wheel-drive world.

It says it's happy to stay as a solid, profitable maker of exotic sports cars.

"In the immediate future of 10 years I can rule it out," Aston Martin managing director Ulrich Bez says.

"At this moment, I do not believe a crossover wagon could help Aston Martin to add value to its brand."

Speaking at the world media preview of the V8 Vantage Roadster, Bez admits he has a product plan that includes a secret teaser -- codenamed DB-X -- but will not go into details.

"DB-X stands for something that, in theory, adds value. I'm not going to say anything about DB-X."

The company will put its four-door Rapide flagship, displayed as a concept car at the Detroit Motor Show last year, into production, but Bez says he is not keen to take the company much beyond 9000 cars a year from this year's projected production total of about 7000.

"A premium brand does not need volume. We will be small. We will be beautiful . . . and profitable."

Bez thanks Ford for its ownership and investment and also rules out any involvement in Formula One, despite the F1 plans of Aston's new executive chairman and long-time Aston fan, David Richards.

"When Ford bought Aston Martin there was no strategic plan. Ford allowed us to survive and prosper. Now we can grow no further . . ," Bez says. "We don't go in Formula One."

Bez's position on four-wheel drives, which have been a hit for several luxury brands and even brought Porsche back from near-bankruptcy to the cash-rich company that controls Volkswagen, is emphasised by Aston's head of product communications, Dave King.

"It's not in the five-year plan. It's not in the 10-year plans," King says.

But other stuff is in the product plan at Aston Martin, led by the four-door Rapide. King has early details of the newest stretch of the company's modular VH alloy chassis pack.

"Rapide will be based on the same platform. It's been pretty much on the backburner. We've done some feasibility work," he says.

"Ford wasn't in a position to make an investment in that car. The new owners, as one of their first actions, have committed to making that car happen.

"We've kicked off full steam. We're saying nothing specific on timing except to say it will be this decade.

"We've been vague because it is early days. I'd anticipate that, in true AM style, it will stay close to the concept car. The production is likely to be 1000 to 2000 cars."

King, like Bez, is evasive about DB-X, but rules out anything smaller than the current Vantage models.

"That was nothing more than a teaser. We are saying there will be more cars in the future," he says.

"I don't think it will be anything below V8 Vantage. There are great opportunities in there, but not for Aston Martin. Perhaps that's where Jaguar should have gone."