The importance of the new Aston Martin Vanquish cannot be underestimated.
The Vanquish replaces the DBS, which carries a £60k premium over the DB9 and has sold in quantities of 600 to 800 units a year since launch in 2007. Within Aston, the DBS is regarded as a bigger success than the original Vanquish.
Crucially, the DBS’s healthy profit margin has contributed significantly to Aston’s survival since the 2008 crash, largely because its traditional customer base has proven more loyal.
In fact, DBS sales actually went up in 2008-2009 - the first full year of the crash - while sales of the rival Ferrari 599 GTB collapsed to half of pre-recession levels, according to figures from IHS Global Insight. “The DBS has proved resilient, but the overall picture at Aston is not so good,” says IHS analyst Colin Couchman.
Today, the unanswered question is whether the new Vanquish will repeat the success of the DBS over the next five to eight years, given the technical progress being made by rivals.
The Ferrari F12 has arrived with a stonking 730bhp and agile chassis, and competition from Mercedes’ SLS - which outsells the DBS nearly four to one - can’t be overlooked.
Undeterred, Aston is said to be eyeing Vanquish global sales of 1000 a year, but the Vanquish must fight on with a 10-year-old V12 and modified alloy platform. How it fares is likely to shape Aston’s future.
Compare the success of the DBS with the struggles of its stablemates, the Vantage and DB9. The sobering figure for the Vantage is a 62 per cent sales decline from its peak. For the DB9, the decline in sales is 71 per cent.
In 2007 the Vantage commanded about 3600 sales but has since declined inexorably to 1300 units.
Of course, the segment- defining Porsche 911 has suffered, too. But whereas the Vantage was once achieving 10 per cent of 911 sales, it is now worth just six.
And the consequence of the arrival in 2009 of the Ferrari California has been a dramatic slide in DB9 sales, which are now in the 1000-a- year bracket.
Ferrari’s healthy sales figures for its mid-engined F430 and 458 shine an even harsher light, tracking at about 3300 a year.
Against this background, Aston faces a tough task planning replacements for its core Vantage and DB9 models. A conservative view might predict only 2500 sales annually for these two-door models, a challengingly small number. Overall, Aston is running at about 4000 cars a year, down from 6500-plus in 2007.