Aston Martin’s turnaround plan moves up a gear with Vantage model

Luxury British carmaker Aston Martin unveiled its new Vantage model on Tuesday, as it pursues a turnaround plan designed to return it to profitability and set up a possible stock market flotation.

The central England-based firm, famed for making the sports car driven by fictional secret agent James Bond, is on course this year for its first pretax profit since 2010, spurred by sales of its new DB11 model.

With the Vantage, Aston Martin hopes to reach full capacity of 7,000 sports cars at its Gaydon plant in 2019, which would be the most cars it has produced for a decade.

“It’s important fiscally because it is the car that really moves us into that positive free cash flow territory, but I think it was also important industrially because you are now talking about a plant that is full,” Chief Executive Andy Palmer told Reuters during an interview at the firm’s headquarters.

The sleek two-seater model, which the firm says will stand out from rivals partly due to its simplistic design, will cost just over 120,000 pounds in Britain and $150,000 in the United States.

Aston is also building a new factory in Wales, where its first sports utility vehicle, known as the DBX, will roll off the production line from late 2019.

As Aston grows, Palmer has said that its owners, mainly Kuwaiti and Italian private equity firms, could sell the company to a larger car group, other private equity firms or launch an initial public offering,

“Another year of demonstrating what we are doing and then I think beyond that it’s going to depend on what the market’s doing.” he said.


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Andy Palmer is a car guy. Even in his former life as chief planning officer at Nissan he was focused on producing the most relevant and exciting products he could. By his own admission, though, his first job when he arrived at Aston in 2014 was accountancy.

“The DB11 project started in 2012, it’s a Marek Reichman creation, he deserves all the credit for how the car looks,” Palmer told us at the Geneva show, just minutes after the DB11’s unveiling. “What the car didn’t have was a business case and funding, so that’s what I focused on initially.”

As it stands, it’s paid off handsomely, because Palmer has secured around £700m in funding – enough for the next four years, by which time the debts will be paid.

“Aston has always been about getting enough money to get to the next car, but that doesn’t work because this industry requires a cadence of cars,” he explained. “Ultimately the money I’ve raised gives me DB11, Vantage, Vanquish and DBX. After that I’ve got free cash flow so I can invest in the three that come after that. Seven cars, seven years.”

Pretty jam-packed schedule isn’t it? The new Vantage is due in 2017, will be based on a cut-down version of the DB11’s all-new bonded aluminium chassis and will be the first model to feature the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 bought from AMG. “The DB11 and new Vantage both look like Astons, but side by side they don’t look anything like each other,” said Palmer. “I wanted the ride and handling to reflect that so Matt Becker has tuned the DB11 so you can drive 500 miles and still be fresh, whereas the Vantage should knock your fillings out.”

In 2018 we’ll see the next Vanquish – essentially a DB11 turned up to, erm, 11. Expect close to 650bhp from the new 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12 and a more aggressive slant to the styling. Then, in 2019 we’ll see the Welsh-built five-door, all-electric DBX crossover – Palmer’s two-birds-one-stone model that will reduce the average fleet emissions and attract more female buyers to the brand.

Beyond that the other three new model lines are “crystal clear” in Palmer’s head, but he’s not letting on. What we do know is the Lagonda brand will continue its resurgence, so our educated guess is one large and one small saloon, as well as a range-topping successor to the One-77.

But wait, there’s more. Aston’s special ops department, referred to by Palmer as his “Q division”, will be tasked with producing two special runs every year. Palmer defines a special as cars like the GT12 and Vulcan, models with production runs of “no more than 100 to 150 units, or sometimes as low as one.”

“They are our provenance cars. We’ve made less than 80,000 cars in 102 years, but when Gaydon and St Athan are up to full capacity we will be building 14,000 or 15,000 a year,” He explained. “That’s a very different place, so we want to make some cars which are the future DB5s. They let us experiment with things we wouldn’t necessarily do on full production cars. A lot of aero on DB11 comes from the Vulcan.”

And the DBX won’t be the only EV in Aston’s arsenal either. An electric version of the Rapide, previewed by the RapideE concept late last year should be ready by 2018 and ditch the 6.0-litre V12 in favour of 800bhp to 1000bhp-worth of batteries and electric motors. It’s Aston Martin, Jim, but not as we know it.