Dr Andrew Palmer, President & CEO of Aston Martin gives you a peek into the world of luxury of automobiles.
If I could choose a theme song for the world of the luxury automobile, I would probably go for Bob Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’ as we are at the centre of unprecedented change in our industry.
The unpredictable state of the global economy coupled with the speed of technological change makes this a challenging, yet exciting time for the luxury automobile industry. When we created Aston Martin’s ‘Second Century Plan’ which sets the company on a new course for the decades to come, we had to take into account an extremely diverse range of external factors.
Let’s look at the numbers. The luxury automobile market is worth 40 percent of the global luxury spend, which is an incredible 405 billion euros (Rs 3,095,820 crore). The market is also growing at an increasing rate (15 percent between 2014 and 2015), so the opportunities are there for the taking. But where exactly? The population of high net worth individuals could potentially double by 2050 and this growth will be largely in China, Asia-Pacific and South America.
We have to understand who the Aston Martin customer of the future is and what they will want from their vehicles. Generation Z has become disenfranchised with the car and will want different capabilities and services offered to them. There is a growing senior market, looking to age with dignity, with continued mobility and freedom, and a growing segment of empowered females who have different needs from mobility. Collectively, these demographic shifts have to be factored into our product planning.
Technology is changing all the time and at a fast pace. Independent, small-volume luxury manufacturers, like Aston Martin, will need new powertrain form factors to meet increasingly stringent emission requirements. The needs of an increasingly connected society effectively makes a vehicle another screen for many customers and this will require integration of C2C and C2I technology as well as constantly streaming high bandwidth connectivity.
Although autonomous vehicles regularly hit the headlines, full autonomy is unlikely to be a near-term goal for the luxury sports car. Our sports cars are a joy to drive, so why take that pleasure away? That said, we can learn a great deal from autonomous cars that will help us to implement new driver assistance and safety features that will become increasingly important to our customers.
Buyers of luxury automobiles expect the absolute best experience when buying and enjoying their beautiful hand-crafted cars. Buying your first Aston Martin has to be as much of a thrill as buying your first chronograph watch or your first tailor-made suit. Q by Aston Martin is our special personalisation system, which allows our customers to craft their own bespoke automobile.
CEO on the shopfloor
Quality is becoming more important than ever before to our discerning customers. I am in the process of personally inspecting the first 1,000 Aston Martin DB11s to come off the production line at Gaydon. There were a few raised eyebrows when I suggested this but DB11 is the first brand new car under my leadership and I want the first 1,000 cars to go out with my personal stamp of approval, along with my email and mobile number, should anyone be unhappy. I think that demonstrates our 100 percent commitment to quality.
Maintaining such high levels of quality and personalisation requires a manufacturing system that is capable of a ‘beyond lean’ flow line assembly, where every car is unique. Something I am incredibly proud of is our workforce. To be lean yet reactive and attentive requires us to have a varied workforce that can combine traditional hand-crafted manufacturing techniques with skilled apprentices and technicians, expert in the latest automotive technologies.
The good news for us is that we as a society are actually becoming more and more reliant on our cars but the cars we choose need to fit in with our varied lifestyles. New technologies will go a long way to make our cars an extension of our homes and our offices but now, more than ever, there has to be an emotional connection.
Aston Martin Residences, a 66-storey residential tower is to come up in Miami by 2021. It's understood the building’s common areas will feature the British marque's 'signature items' like the trademark colours, stitching style, and materials — from polished wood and supple leather to carbon fibre.
We identified that many Aston Martin customers want to ‘live’ the brand. Our luxury brand extensions are turning Aston Martin into more than a car maker. ‘Art of Living by Aston Martin’ takes our customers beyond sports cars and allows them to live the Aston Martin lifestyle through a series of bespoke events and curated products and experiences.
We launched the stunning AM37 powerboat at the Monaco Yacht Show earlier this year and we have just announced the building of the Aston Martin Residences, a luxury development that is set to become one of Miami’s most sought-after addresses. We also recently opened the truly stunning ‘8 Dover Street’, which is our brand experience centre on one of the most prestigious streets in central London. Aston Martin is a marque that people aspire to and want to be immersed in so that is why we are creating these new opportunities for our customers to interact with us.
Although our sights are set on the next 100 years with the Second Century Plan, we realise the importance of our first 100 years and celebrate our heritage whenever we can. Our heritage cars continue to perform well as investment pieces, helped by our Assured Provenance certification programme, which is administered and run by our world-renowned in-house heritage car facility – Aston Martin Works.
We are working hard on building a sustainable and enduring future for Aston Martin. Starting with DB11, we will be investing £ 700 million (Rs 6,890 crore) in new products and facilities, which includes the opening of our second UK manufacturing plant at St Athan in Wales. Work will start on the site in early 2017 before manufacturing commences in 2020. We have already begun recruiting and training the 1,000 new personnel who will join us between now and 2020 in Gaydon and St Athan.
Partnerships are important to Aston Martin. We have a very special Innovation Partnership with Red Bull Racing, which gives Aston Martin global exposure via Red Bull’s Formula 1 team but will also see the production of one of the most incredible cars I have ever seen. Codenamed the AM-RB 001, we put Red Bull’s Adrian Newey together with our Chief Creative Officer, Marek Reichman and Chief of Special Vehicles, David King, to produce the next-generation hypercar. We start testing first prototypes in late 2017. Such is the demand for this level of future technology, the car has already sold out.
When I reflect on 2016, I feel proud that Aston Martin has achieved so much in the last 12 months. The pace has been frantic but it is necessary, as customers will not wait for manufacturers who can’t keep up in these rapidly changing times. Luckily this is something that excites and inspires everyone at Aston Martin so onwards we go into 2017!
This exclusive column was first published in Autocar Professional's 12th Anniversary issue. Subscribe to our magazine to get exclusive news, features and analysis.