Rumours are growing that Mercedes-Benz could buy Aston Martin.

Mercedes chief Dieter Zetsche did not rule out the possibility that his company, which already owns five per cent of Aston, might acquire the UK firm, although he did what he could to dampen the speculation that has been growing fast.

Aston has been short of powerful industry friends since it was sold by Ford several years ago - and the management knows it. 

“This is a fantastic brand, and we are willing to support its further development,” Zetsche said cryptically. He added that Aston had offered the CEO’s job to three individuals and had been rebuffed by two but now had a third in prospect.

AMG will develop the new V8 engine that will be supplied to Aston for the next generation of the Vantage, and will manufacture it in Germany.

Aston will specify its requirements for the engine, but AMG will program the ECU and do the testbed trails. Aston will work on installing it into the new Vantage.

The capacity is still being kept secret, but most likely it will be a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8, with about 480bhp, which is under development for the new C63 AMG.

Mercedes has made no secret in the past of its wishes to extend the partnership with Aston, with insiders at both companies hinting that the initial deal to supply engines and electronic components could be extended to include platform sharing as well.

Such a move would open up new opportunities for Aston Martin, chiefly the resurrection of its Lagonda SUV, which would be based on the Mercedes GL.

Additional reporting by Julian Rendell.