Aston Martin hires former Bugatti exterior designer amid performance boost plans

Brand employs designer with hypercar experience as it shifts towards making faster cars.

By Sam Sheehan, Autocar UK calendar 18 May 2018 Views icon4027 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Aston Martin Valkyrie

Aston Martin Valkyrie

Aston Martin’s shift towards becoming a brand of higher-performance models has taken another step forward with its hiring of former Bugatti employee Tobias Sühlmann as exterior design boss.

Sühlmann, who has worked for Mercedes, the PSA Group and Volkswagen before moving to hypercar-maker Bugatti as its exterior creative development boss, arrives at a time Aston Martin’s line-up is gaining faster and more driver-focused models.

The Valkyrie hypercar stands out as a halo product, but the upcoming DBS Superleggera and rumoured new Vanquish look set to become more accessible examples of the shift, which will move Aston Martin away from its existing rivals like Bentley and closer to supercar makers such as Ferrari and McLaren.

The new DB11 and Vantage have kick-started the transition, while the DBS Superleggera, which is due for reveal next month, is hot on their heels, with a 700bhp turbocharged V12 engine. In 2021, a reborn Vanquish, first scooped by Autocar, will arrive as a rival to the Ferrari 488 GTB and McLaren 720S.

However, the ongoing Valkyrie project is said to be proving most beneficial to Aston Martin’s plans because of its partnership with the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team, which is co-developing the hypercar. The car maker’s colour and materials manager Libby Meigh said during this week’s Autocar Awards that the Valkyrie was positively influencing designers, aerodynamicists and engineers across the company.

“It [the Valkyrie] is definitely having a knock-on effect that will trickle down into other models,” she said. “We’re learning a lot from Red Bull Racing about how to maximise performance; there’s a lot to learn from a Formula 1 team.”

Meigh said that the Valkyrie’s hard focus on performance has meant that aerodynamics has taken priority over design by some margin, but that this has helped designers gain an even better understanding of how to mix Aston Martin features with shapes that work in the wind tunnel.

Aston Martin’s transition into a higher performance brand won’t stop with its road line-up. This shift could be significantly boosted in 2021 if new F1 engine regulations, which are due to be introduced in that year, fit with the brand’s future plans.

Currently, Aston Martin is Red Bull Racing’s title sponsor, but CEO Andy Palmer has revealed that the brand could substantially increase its involvement. He tweeted last month that “prospective [F1 regulation] changes support many of the requirements needed for Aston Martin to enter the sport as an engine supplier”.

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