It’s tough being an independent automaker; just ask Saab. Although Aston Martin has weathered the storm far better since going it alone, it’s still finding things rather tough in the high-end luxury segment.
One major issue, according to some industry analysts, is having to rely on a single, aging platform for new models. The current crop of Astons (aside from the pint-size, Toyota Aygo/Scion iQ derrived Cygnet and One-77 Supercar), including the four-door Rapide and Vantage coupe, are all based on the same architecture that originally underpinned the 2003 DB9.
While luxury rivals, including Mercedes-Benz and BMW are heavily investing in new research and development ,as well as developing new vehicle platforms and propulsion systems, Aston Martin is having to squeeze every last drop out of the technology and resources it currently has, which means that yet more cars are likely to be built off the same aluminum DB9 chassis, in addition to the new £330,000 ($540,880) Zagato (shown).
Unlike other luxury car makers, the Gaydon concern simply cannot produce any ‘cost no object’ flagship models, purely as prestige exercises. “All the projects that we are doing have to make a profit, we can’t afford a project that is just a marketing tool,” CEO Ulrich Bez declared during a recent press conference at Aston’s HQ in Warwickshire, UK.
That said, smart moves by the company, including reliance on engines supplied by Ford Motor Company as well as recycling technology, has resulted in Aston Martin being able to produce vehicles with much higher profit margins (around 20 percent) compared than some of the bigger automakers, like Mercedes-Benz, whose margin on high-end vehicles is often around half that.
This focus on maximizing resources has also put Aston Martin in relatively good financial stead; in June, the company managed to raise some £304 million ($499 million) by selling high-yield bonds, allowing it to pursue future projects as well as expanding into new markets, such as China. An initial public offering of shares is also probably on the horizon which would raise further capital, though CEO Bez says that the idea of an IPO will only be explored when the company sees the “right window.”
So while it might not have the latest in terms of architecture or technology, Aston Martin is proving that in some respects, small can be beautiful (and highly profitable) when it comes to building bespoke luxury cars. And if it’s able to pour a good deal of that profit into new projects and technological developments, then the future is arguably looking very bright for one of the UK’s most famous car makers.
[Source: Automotive News]