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Aston Martin's future plans take shape


Cash from fresh sources powers Aston Martin's reinvention.

Like a spreadeagled spy with a laser beam encroaching on his crotch, Aston Martin has been uncomfortable lately.

Thanks to an ageing and limited line-up that would be hard to tell apart in an identity parade, sales have declined. Revenue and profit naturally followed, so the company couldn't afford to create new models to reverse the slide.

James Bond may be a cherished Aston Martin customer but fictitious characters don't write real cheques. Finally the iconic British brand's plan to escape its sticky predicament, funded with real cash from its mostly private equity group shareholders, is taking shape.

The company has a car ready to replace the DB9, which dates from 2004. Following the imminent launch of the all-new DB11, Aston Martin will rapidly renew the remainder of its existing line-up, add a Tesla-beating battery-electric model, then design and develop the DBX, its first crossover/SUV.

There's a luxury space that we can enter.

Along the way, it will turn out a string of low-volume but high-profit specials, with a little help from its friends... at Benz.

Aston Martin signed a deal with Daimler, the owner of Mercedes-Benz, in 2013. The Germans own 5 per cent of the British company and will allow access to their tech — the DB11 will have the same switches and screens as seen in a C-Class.

In its smaller and less costly cars, Aston also will be able to use a version of the loud and lively twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 made by Mercedes-AMG.

The DB11, Aston Martin's GT model with 2+2 seating, has a twin-turbo 5.2-litre V12 beneath its lengthy bonnet. Designed in-house, it is built in the company's engine plant in Germany. The DB11 also introduces a fresh underbody structure, again Aston's own work.

"We'll use the basis of the DB11 — all-new platform, our skill set in bonded aluminium — also to produce the Vantage, the next Vanquish and the DBX," says Aston chief creative officer Marek Reichman.

The Vantage will share the Mercedes-AMG V8. The Vanquish, a Super GT model positioned above the DB11, is sure to use the new V12.

In 2018 the company plans to launch a battery-electric version of its big, four-seat sedan, transforming the Rapide into the RapidE. It will be developed with Chinese-backed but US-based EV company Faraday Future.

"We see a space in the marketplace, as Tesla comes down," says Reichman. "There's a luxury space that we can enter."

There's room right now for a luxury crossover/SUV but the DBX won't reach showrooms until 2020. It will come from a new Aston Martin factory in South Wales instead of the production line in the English Midlands.

Given the insatiable demand for luxury SUVs, the DBX is sure to become the best-selling model wearing the winged badge.

To keep cash coming in, says Reichman, the company will keep turning out limited-edition cars.

"We've had enormous success with our recent special projects," he says. "We showed Vanquish Zagato for the first time at Villa d'Este (the Concorso d'Eleganza staged by Lake Como in Italy in May).

"Two weeks later we announced we'd produce the series of cars; they were all sold out before we hit ‘go' on the computer."

Only 99 will be made, says Reichman, but the price is £500,000 ($875,000).

Some of the profits will fund the relaunch of the famous-but-almost-forgotten Lagonda name.

From 2020, with the DBX in profitable production and a parade of high-priced specials contributing to cashflow, Aston Martin should be a sustainable money-making business.

Some of the profits will fund the relaunch of the famous-but-almost-forgotten Lagonda name, first on a sedan and then, potentially, an SUV.

With a mix of Aston's sports cars and crossover/SUVs, plus the Lagondas, the rejuvenated company will be secure and stable, just like a three-legged stool, Reichman argues. "If you think of Rolls-Royce at one extreme and Ferrari at the other extreme, we're able to stand across that spectrum."

Lagonda will be designed to fly high. "Best way to describe it is if Rolls-Royce and Bentley are first-class travel in an Airbus 380, we're Concorde. This is what Lagonda is all about."

There are risks, obviously. Unlike Sean Connery's '60s slacks in the famous scene from Goldfinger, Concorde came to a fiery end.

Do you think Aston-Martins bold plans for the future will re-invigorate the brand? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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