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.
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.