Aston Martin’s boss on the secrets to the luxury car brand’s success
With a blueprint to create 1,000 new jobs, introduce a slew of technology-laden models and create a second manufacturing site, luxury sports car maker Aston Martin claims to be accelerating away from its ill-performing balance sheet.
It’s “pretty ballsy”, says its chief executive of 18 months and custodian of the iconic 103-year old marque, Andy Palmer, referring to the company’s “Second Century Plan”.
Aston Martin produces a product that is internationally recognised as James Bond’s ride of choice. It is a small company with a big following. But Palmer has to please his multinational shareholders as well as countless brand enthusiasts.
Just months ago Aston Martin announced 300 redundancies, mainly management roles lost in the pursuit of a flatter executive structure. Aston Martin had just posted losses of £35.9m on turnover of around £454m. Is the boldness displayed by the new management team hubristic or the necessary impetus to roll up its sleeves and fix long-standing problems?
Palmer has already set a number of changes in motion but remains coy about the latest set of accounts, which are not yet due for publication. He says: “What I would say is, ‘look at the results of the past 18 months’.” Palmer says that he inherited a company that didn’t hit any of its budgets and was in continual decline over the last few years.
He says: “Last year’s sales were up 11pc with a portfolio that, essentially, hadn’t changed and was one year older. For the first three [financial] quarters, we’ve hit the declared budget.”
The 52-year-old is an auto industry veteran and was formerly second in command at Nissan’s Japanese headquarters. He wants Aston Martin to adopt a Japanese-style culture of longer-term planning in order to ensure product credibility and profitability.
Under his guidance, Aston Martin will broaden its portfolio to include a third design, a sports utility vehicle (SUV) -type vehicle codenamed “DBX” to complement its V8 and V12-engined sports car ranges.
Output from its existing Gaydon base in Warwickshire is expected to increase from around 4,000 sports cars a year to 7,000 units, in line with arch rival Ferrari’s current production. The Italian maker says it intends to increase its overall output to more than 9,000 units in coming years.
Palmer also wants to revive Aston’s often-forgotten sibling brand, Lagonda. A new factory at St Athan in Glamorgan has also been announced. The fresh recruitment drive will result in 750 jobs being created at that facility and 250 at Gaydon.