Currently reading: Dear Tobias: How the new CEO can fix Aston Martin
The task of saving Aston Martin has been accepted by Mercedes-AMG’s Tobias Moers. We offer some advice
Steve Cropley Autocar
News
9 mins read
8 August 2020

Welcome to Britain! Please excuse the first-name familiarity, but we hope you will soon be doing so much communicating that this will seem entirely appropriate. Besides, it’s already obvious that you have one of those distinctive names – like Boris – that instantly identifies you. In the UK, that’s good. Congratulations on a great decision to take the Aston Martin job. Your timing is immaculate.

Following the disastrous sharemarket flotation, it’s clear that the company has big problems, but it also has assets that most failing companies would kill for: in-house talent, a well-engineered range of cars, excellent manufacturing facilities and an impressive, volume-boosting SUV ready to go. He won’t get much credit, but your predecessor, Andy Palmer, left good things behind.

Among other good news, the Covid-19 crisis is now declining in key markets and prestige car dealers say they have customers ready to reward themselves for surviving the pandemic; this ought to help you shift that car backlog your new boss, Lawrence Stroll, talks about.

Your own engineering track record is 24-carat, you’ve loved fast cars all your life, you come from a company that everyone thinks of as Technology Central and we know from interviews that you’re a confident bloke with an impressive personal aura. So you’ll get on fine with the workforce, who coped even under Ulrich Bez. In short, if you hadn’t come along, Stroll and Co would have had to invent you.

Even your decision to leave ultra-secure AMG looks canny. As the industry moves into electrification, it’s obvious that cars will converge rapidly in their delivery of smoothness, silence and effortless high performance. In such an era, making hot Mercedes variants, however good, might not be as sustainable as rescuing a legendary 107-year-old British luxury brand that can stay special forever as long as it makes great products and builds them as well as those from Affalterbach.

Your key asset, of course, is Daimler, the all-important 5% shareholder that supplies Aston Martin’s most complex components – stuff you created yourself, so you know it’s good. And you’re backed by a fiercely determined and well-heeled group of investors who will lose millions and lots of face if they fail. That puts pressure on you, but it also means the bigwigs are thirsty for change.

But what should you do first? Well, that’s why we’re writing: we believe there are immutable priorities. We’ve conducted an office poll, distilling Autocar staffers’ views with those from several hugely experienced professionals in the luxury car industry. One we’re allowed to identify is Hertfordshire-based Nicholas Mee, who is among the country’s foremost and longest-serving Aston Martin specialists. The others are industry chiefs whom we can’t name for commercial reasons, although you will get to know them all. They have a good understanding of the rigours of your job.

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Your number one priority, we agree, is to make absolutely certain that the DBX is perfect before you deliver the first example. It’s a new model and a new kind of car for Aston Martin, based on a new platform and made in a new factory. Car companies rarely take such a combination of risks. Its quality has to amaze owners and critics from day one; anything else will do long-term harm.

Equal first, we believe, is to start cementing and enhancing that life-sustaining relationship with Daimler. Palmer was wrong in his assertion that Aston Martin is predominantly a lifestyle company. It’s a small car maker in need of a secure, long-term relationship with a technology-leading manufacturer that views an Aston Martin link as helpful to its own economies of scale. That’s Daimler, and you, of all people, know how to build that relationship. Lift the phone today. The mission might one day involve finding ways to buy back those London-issued shares and place them in hands that can actually assist the company – although we’re not holding our breath.

Next, we would consider early action with the model range. It’s probable that Aston Martin is making too many cars – and as our experts stress, oversupply is a guaranteed value killer. It’s time to rebalance the ‘profit pools’ and trim production accordingly. Our own belief is that the unsuccessful Vantage V8 needs a new nose, a lower entry price and a V12 halo model. It worked before.

Your cars’ aesthetic also needs reviewing. You have an extremely talented design department, but some of us wonder if their brief is correct. The Aston Martin look has become abruptly more progressive in recent years; is it the designers or the buyers who want this? We think it’s time to review what an Aston Martin actually is, then stick to those principles through thick and thin.

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We also reckon it’s time to park the company’s expensive and risky Lagonda plan, at least for now. Surely it’s better to concentrate on positioning your active brand perfectly than to let a second one steal its thunder? One of our exports also questions the positioning of the DBX, a nice-looking car that he feels falls between the sporty and luxurious stools. The Lamborghini Urus does a more accurate job of embodying its maker’s core values. In short, our committee believes Aston Martin should plough its own traditionalist, luxurious, slightly conservative furrow. It doesn’t compete with Ferrari, although we have to admit that we’re divided on the efficacy of the proposed mid-engined Vanquish. We’ll be fascinated to see what you decide on that one…

To emphasise your serious intent, you have to kill off those Aston Martin lifestyle activities that one member of our committee calls “Dany Bahar fireworks displays”. You don’t need deals with motorcycle companies, submarine makers, luggage companies, property developers in Florida and all the rest. Our group believes such shallow attention-seeking harms your authenticity. While you’re at it, is it time to retire James Bond as an Aston Martin ambassador? To date, he has also been claimed by Lotus, BMW, Ford and Land Rover, and Ian Fleming started with Bentley

Another urgent one: you must rapidly formulate and communicate a coherent policy on electrification. Which Aston Martin models will be electrified? How and when? Your owners love big-engined cars, but they’re also restless about the future. Explain your plans in general terms. Hybridisation is a no-brainer, followed by confident assertions – from you – that the brand can thrive in the electric era. How about Bulldog 2 as a new EV concept?

Crucially, it’s high time to rekindle the relationship with your traditional buyers – the people who once understood Aston Martin values so well that they bought the cars almost as a matter of habit. As a man more familiar with the brand’s core enthusiasts than most of your big-note dealers, Mee is especially keen on this. Aston Martin was known until recently for making big, luxurious grand tourers with sensible accommodation and boot space. Do we know for sure that today’s more extreme, less spacious cars are what the buyers want?

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You also have to reconsider how your cars are sold, says Mee. Aston Martin retailing in the UK is predominantly handled by mammoth dealer groups with no special respect for the brand or its resale values, caring only for volume. It’s time to reconnect with loyal customers.

We know this looks like a tough agenda, Tobias, but we’re also confident you can help Aston Martin thrive. There’s much that the company is already doing right, there’s huge goodwill for it in this country and it seems that high-net-worth buyers still like what it stands for. Without exception, the members of our committee hope for your success but believe that early, clear news of your intentions will be key. Autocar has future pages waiting.

With all best wishes, Steve Cropley

Our 10-point action plan for Aston Martin

1 - Ensure that the DBX SUV is absolutely perfect before deliveries begin.

2 - Work from day one to strengthen and widen Aston Martin’s relationship with Daimler.

3 - Rebalance the prices and production rates of existing models to restore profitability.

4 - Formulate and communicate a clear electrification policy to reassure customers that Aston Martin can thrive beyond 2032.

5 - In the short term, shelve the plan to relaunch Lagonda.

6 - Fix the Vantage by lowering its price, redesigning its unpopular nose and launching a V12 version.

7 - Change dealer priorities – and, if necessary, dealers – to protect Aston’s reputation and residuals.

8 - Consult traditional specialists about ways to attract loyalists back into the fold.

9 - Review the brand’s core values and forward models to ensure alignment with buyers’ desires.

10 - Drop attention-seeking lifestyle links with property, submarines, aircraft, motorcycles and so on.

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An insider's view on the new appointment

Marek Reichman has experienced plenty of change at Aston Martin since he was appointed design chief in 2005, when it was owned by Ford. It was then sold to a consortium led by Prodrive chief David Richards, and after he bowed out, new investors brought in Andy Palmer from Nissan. Reichman had plenty of work due to Palmer’s bold Second Century range expansion, which coincided with Aston Martin’s sharemarket flotation.

It’s still early in the brand’s latest era under Lawrence Stroll, who led the Yew Tree consortium’s investment, but Reichman says the Canadian’s attitude even as the impact of the Covid-19 crisis struck “shows his commitment and passion for the business”.

He continues: “What do I get when I see Lawrence? Exactly that. It’s hard work; there’s a brilliant intensity, but there’s a passion and drive that our business needs, especially in the luxury sector. Ultimately, he’s the consumer, and it’s good to have someone like that at the helm.”

Reichman notes that Stroll has “a very clear vision”. The first signs are that Aston Martin has cut production of its sports cars and is really pushing the DBX, which is set to account for half its sales next year. So, does that switch from sports cars mean a reinvention?

“Reinvention is something you can do without destroying the past, and I would say we are reinventing ourselves,” Reichman says. “But that’s not to say we’re destroying the past or calling ourselves something else. We’re reinventing ourselves in new segments. We’re doing that with the DBX, then we’ll get into mid-engined sports cars and next year we will be in F1 as Aston Martin Racing.

“The reinvention is that we’re no longer just producing front-engined sports cars; we’re also producing SUVs and mid-engined cars and going racing every other weekend.”

Reichman believes the direction and focus that Stroll brings will be echoed by new CEO Tobias Moers; he expects the German to apply “just as much hard work and just as much vision”.

He adds: “Tobias has proved over his time with Mercedes and AMG how successful he is and how he has a brilliant ability to bring new products forward and achieve fiscal success. He’s also a brilliant engineer, at the end of the day.

“I’m looking forward to working with someone who is so passionate and so proud of success in terms of the product’s capabilities as well. He won’t let average get through; it will only be the best. That’s what I’m really looking forward to.”

READ MORE

Official: Aston Martin names Mercedes-AMG chief as new boss 

What new CEO Tobias Moers will bring to Aston Martin 

New Aston Martin DBX: Vital new SUV enters production

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29

8 August 2020

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8 August 2020

Surely Moers has got the job because MB will take over the company & the new F1 Aston team will be the Mercedes "B" team. Reichman will get the sack and be replaced by an ex-Mercedes designer. The link with 007 will continue because the Germans love that old product placement in movies. All future Astons will be based on MB platforms, all the runing gear too, maybe they'll even get the job of building a few bespoke Mercs like Mclaren did with the SLR. Maybe they'll even revive the Lagonda brand as a luxury limosine to compete with the other German ultra luxury brands such as BMW's Rolls Royce & VW's Bentley. I think that's exactly what MB will do with AML, take it even more up market and make it a direct competitor to Bently.

8 August 2020

No matter how you look at it, his designs are a disaster for Aston. They just don't sell.

 

Vantage needs more than just a new nose, which if you haven't already noticed Aston gives an option for this already. Although Revenant Automotive does a far superior one. What the Vantage needs is a restyling job from bumper to bumper, inside and out. For that you need a new designer, not Reichman.

 

Now it's too late to fix the DBX; it will have to go as is. But you can fix the DB11 and the DBS.   Refresh those care before doing any more work on the mid-engine program.

 

As for that mid-engine program, the Valkyrie will sell because of the Newey connection. But is there still a market for a £1.5 million 500 limited edition Valhalla? I doubted it before, now I seriouslly doubt it. And the new Vanquish? The LeMan prototype look has never found support in the market, and without a team of technicians to help you in and out, will it ever? It's a busy segment that even McLaren hasn't managed to fully crack yet. Don't expect that Vanquish to sell in enough numbers to pay for itself.

 

There's a lot of work to do at Aston and it starts with sacking Reichman and refreshing their exisiting range to make them stylish and desireable again.

 

8 August 2020
Symanski wrote:

Now it's too late to fix the DBX; it will have to go as is.

I don't think it needs fixing, it looks great as it is and has a proper Aston Martin grille  - so perhaps lessons from past mistakes have been learnt.

8 August 2020
streaky wrote:

Symanski wrote:

Now it's too late to fix the DBX; it will have to go as is.

I don't think it needs fixing, it looks great as it is and has a proper Aston Martin grille  - so perhaps lessons from past mistakes have been learnt.

 

The DBX isn't terrible, just could have been better. If you look at the F Pace and really look at it you realise it's a coupe. Just happens to be in SUV form. That's great design.

 

Interior there's still too much of Reichman's disconnected design and too many parts that just look cheap, not fitting of this level of car.   It's not much, but they are prime customer facing parts like vents and the speakers.

 

Another revision by someone competent and they'd be fixed, and by that the DBX would be a massive success. And ultimately that's what I want to see, Aston being a massive success.

 

8 August 2020
I think the point about looks and driveability on road as opposed to round a track is a fair one . All the hard work building a definitive Aston look from the DB7 onwards was chucked out , why?
People absolutely adored them , daft daft daft . Secondly the likes of Bentley are doing just fine with spacious fast coupes with fab interiors , not track day specials .

8 August 2020
Sundym wrote:

All the hard work building a definitive Aston look from the DB7 onwards was chucked out , why? People absolutely adored them , daft daft daft .

 

Why? Because Reichman is a hack.

 

Evolution of that style was needed, adding more modern technology inside, keeping pace with the industry. Not fussy disjointed design that was pig ugly. Hence why Reichman must go.

 

8 August 2020

Ah, remember the good old VH platform days. Applying the Porsche Boxster / 911 commonality principle (seems to work for them) Uli Bez introduced the Vantage and DB9. Seems a strategy somehow appropriate to a small company.

Now, let's count the number of new platforms Aston has recently developed and those coming soon. DB11. Vantage. DBX. Valkyrie. Valhalla. Mid-engined Vanquish. Hmmm. That doesn't sound cheap to me for a small company. 

However, my greatest fear is the change of direction to mid engined, entering a market that will become more crowded with Lotus and already has McLaren, Ferrari, Lamborghini.

Why not keep the USP of the front engined GT?

And pls don't get me started on the F1 adventure. Never looked a good idea. Now being associated with a team guilty of blatant copying seems even worse.

Like I said, worried.

(But desperately hope the company survives!)

8 August 2020
harf wrote:

However, my greatest fear is the change of direction to mid engined, entering a market that will become more crowded with Lotus and already has McLaren, Ferrari, Lamborghini.

You're absolutelly right. It is a very busy segment that even Ferrari doesn't dine out at!

 

Look at the Ferrari lineup of cars.   The 488 / F8 (I list both since it's a transitional year) is probably one of the most famous mid-engined car.   Only now with the SF90 will they have a second model in their lineup. I can't remember the last time they produced two models like this?

 

Instead you have the 812, Portafino, GT4 Lusso and now the Roma to add.   All with the engine ahead of the driver, just like all of Aston's products too.

 

So why the desire to build a car, spending a ton of money in F1 to justify the expenditure, to entre a market that's already far too busy that even the biggest name there doesn't rely upon it alone?

 

Crazy.

 

8 August 2020

"As the industry moves into electrification..."

That may be the perception in brainwashed, crazy Britain, where most people have been indoctrinated into believing the absurd 'Climate Change' religion, and your cities are close together, but in developing countries and such markets as North America and Australia, people need to travel long distances in a day, many of them never buy a new car and run only old bangers, and in cities, access to charging points is severely limited.

If take-up of electric vehicles ever exceeds 20% of the market I shall be astonished.

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