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Aston Martin eyes another record sales year

On its way: Aston Martin’s DBX SUV, seen here in testing late last year, will be shown in production form later this year and enter production at a new factory in Wales early in 2020.

Global, local growth targeted at Aston as 14,000 sales next decade ‘feels right’

Aston Martin logo26 Mar 2019

ASTON Martin expects to maintain its run of record annual sales results in Australia and globally this year, despite political, trade and economic headwinds that could disrupt momentum.
 
Last year, Aston sold 6441 vehicles worldwide, up from 5098 in 2017, while in Australia the British sports-luxury brand sold a record 167 vehicles, up 23 units (or 16 per cent) on the previous year. 
 
In an interview with GoAuto in Melbourne this month, Aston Martin Lagonda vice-president and chief marketing officer Simon Sproule said the goal was to continue to grow sales as the company brings new models to market – including its first SUV, the DBX, in 2020 – and doubles its production capacity to 14,000 units with the opening of a new factory in St Athan, Wales.
 
Like Aston’s Gaydon plant in England, St Athan will turn out up to 7000 cars per annum when it goes online early next year with DBX, which begins rolling off the line during the second quarter. 
 
Aston’s current business plan calls for up to 14,000 cars to be built each year across seven major model lines under the company’s Second Century Plan announced in 2015 that commits to “seven cars in seven years” – the DB11, Vantage and DBS already on sale, and the forthcoming DBX, Vanquish mid-engined supercar and two Lagonda ultra-luxury models: an SUV, followed by a sedan.
 
The large-platform cars – DBX, and the Lagonda cars from 2022 – will be built at St Athan, while Gaydon will continue to be responsible for sportscars, including limited-run models such as the Valkyrie and still-to-be-named sub-Valkyrie hypercars (the latter codenamed AM-RB 003) and the all-electric Rapide E four-door sports sedan.
 
Aston’s executive vice-president and chief creative officer Marek Reichman also confirmed that derivatives such as a DBS Volante and Vantage Roadster were in the works, and that roofless and track-oriented AMR Pro versions would be integral as new model lines such as Vanquish are added.    
 
The company also recently returned to its historic Newport Pagnell site in England for low-volume ‘classic continuation’ models. 
 
Asked to nominate the upper limit for Aston Martin sales, given the brand’s need to maintain a degree of exclusivity, Mr Sproule said: “We’ve said, under the business plan, that 14,000 feels right.
 
“In this business, you want to build one less than you’ve got demand for. We haven’t built out the full seven cars yet, so time will tell.”
 
Mr Sproule said he had to be cautious in providing forward-looking statements since Aston Martin became a publicly listed company last year, but ongoing growth is anticipated and, further ahead, DBX and Vanquish are expected to drive significant volume once they reach the market in 2020 and 2022 respectively. 
 
“This year will see the first full year of DBS, the second full year of Vantage and then we’ve got DB11, so obviously we’re still looking for global growth,” he said.
 
“We’ve got a capacity at Gaydon of 7000 cars so we can’t build more than that, so we’ll see.”
 
Mr Sproule and Aston Martin Lagonda Asia-Pacific president Patrik Nilsson would not comment on specific sales targets for Australia or allocation numbers for current or forthcoming models, such as the Rapide E, which is limited to 155 units and expected here in the final quarter.
 
But Mr Nilsson said that there was a lot of momentum and confidence apparent in the Australian and New Zealand markets, as shown by significant investments made by its retail partners in both countries.   
 
“Historically, we have in this region – Australia and New Zealand – a fantastic market share,” he said. 
 
“Last year was a very good year again, we came up to a 26 per cent market share compared to our other (ultra-luxury) competitors, and that ranks very, very high if you look at all the international markets that Aston Martin is in.
 
“So we’ve got a good fanbase here. Australia and New Zealand … are a third of the total volume for Asia-Pacific, so it is a significant part and a very important part.
 
“We are also seeing some fantastic investments being made – here (in Melbourne), with Auckland just opened a beautiful showroom as well – so there’s a lot of momentum and a lot of confidence. 
 
“It’s a very important market.”
 
In taking the temperature of global market conditions, which on the face of it look to be limiting growth for many of the world’s major vehicle manufacturers, Mr Sproule said: “It’s not an equal story everywhere. 
 
“If you take the UK, Brexit uncertainty and other factors have definitely caused the market to, I think, pause for thought. America has now become our largest market, which was always in the plan, so that’s encouraging … and we are only really just getting started in the States with launching things like the DBS, which has only just started to arrive in Australia.
 
“Overall, the big picture is we’ve got a capacity of 7000 cars maximum produced out of Gaydon and we will obviously sell them where there is demand.
 
“The luxury market is projected to keep growing, and particularly driven by SUV and the continuing growth of the mid-engined (sportscar) segment – the two segments that we are going into – so if you look at … Ferrari, Lamborghini etc, that market is being driven by more growth in the US, driven by more growth in China.
 
“There’s a lot being written about China having some slowdown; we’re not seeing that in the luxury market, at least not in our segments in China. I mean, we had our best year ever in China last year, we were at one point the number-one luxury brand in China, and that’s only really only off the back of DB11.
 
“So overall the luxury market is set to continue to grow. It will grow at different paces across the world, based on local economic conditions.”
 
The company handed down its 2018 financial report earlier this month, which assessed strategic risks such as Brexit, explicit trade protectionism and reduced disposable incomes as “moderate”. 
 
Mr Sproule said provisions had been put in place surrounding “in-bound and out-bound logistics” – particularly overseas parts supply, such as powertrains from German partner Daimler – in anticipation of a worst-case Brexit scenario.
 
“The biggest threat to business is uncertainty, and particularly because in a business like ours we have long cycle planning,” he said.
 
“We made a decision to invest in Wales three years ago, a product is a three-year program and then lives in the market for six or seven years, so you are talking about 10-year product cycles in the car business. So uncertainty is (a concern). 
 
“With Brexit, all we can do as a business is plan for a worst-case scenario … it’s prudent planning for a business like ours and then we’ll see what our politicians decide.”

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