Currently reading: Inside the industry: Is Aston falling short in the race to electrification?
Lagonda EVs are on hold while Aston fights other battles and Rolls-Royce and Bentley steal a march

New owners, new leaders, new product plans: in a year that has come with upheaval as standard, Aston Martin can perhaps uniquely consider the coronavirus as just another hurdle to overcome.

But for all the sense that the change (most notably its closer tie-up with Mercedes-Benz) might do Aston good in the long run, it’s hard not to ponder whether the need to survive has impacted on its ability to thrive.

Cast your mind back three years and you might recall chief designer Marek Reichman’s hugely swaggering assertion that Rolls-Royce and Bentley were the equivalent of “Ancient Greece” as he uncovered the first of two Lagonda concepts, electric-powered and built around sustainable materials.

A well-to-do rumpus ensued, as Rolls-Royce boss Torsten Müller-Ötvös fired back that Reichman had “zero clue what’s going on in the upper, upper segment”, pointing out that Aston sold cars to buyers several strata below its wealthy clientele.

Now the Lagonda concepts are on ice. It seems a perfectly logical decision; Aston faces enough challenges without having to invest huge amounts of resource in developing an all-new range of cars in a hurry.

Yet – theoretical though it may be, given executive chairman Lawrence Stroll’s lifelong belief in the value of promoting brands in Formula 1 and current emotional investment in his son Lance’s career in the sport – you have to ponder whether it might have been worth the gamble of pouring the money heading the way of the soon to be rebranded Racing Point F1 team into accelerating these electric ambitions instead.

Some will argue that the hundreds of millions an F1 team costs wouldn’t get you far down the road to launching a new electric car platform, but that equation has surely changed with Mercedes’ co-ownership. Marketing via F1 has never been clear-cut, whereas the returns on EV leadership are there, if not on the bottom line then certainly on the share price. Market valuations aren’t everything, but the stratospheric rises in the worth of BYD, Nio and Tesla in 2020 must surely have given Aston’s investors pause for thought (or tears).

Already you can sense the opportunity to lead is slipping away. Rival or not, Rolls-Royce is making noise about electrification and sustainable materials, while Bentley is so far ahead on these fronts that it threatens to leave everyone behind.

The tipping point won’t come until the first wave of cars are released, of course, and Aston may yet still be there. But right now, it appears to be focused on a different race altogether.


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BarryFastCars 3 December 2020

Aston Martin is a joke really. I cannot believe the Logonda relaunch has been pushed back. Why would AM agree to closer ties with MB other than to obatain their EV technology? They already have the access needed for the current powertrains and electronics, I thought for certain we would see the Lagonda be launched as a halo car using the EQS chassis and EV hardware. It doesn't really need to have all the self driving wizardry because the prospective owner can pay a human for that. It needed to drop jaws and be at least Mercedes reliable. Moers needs to recognize the necessity of a streamlined product line at the moment. For a company barely surviving they have too many cars. I would be perfectly fine in the near future to just see a DB12 with Mercedes inline 6 and the current V12 and the Logonda EV envisioned above.

The Colonel 30 November 2020

It's interesting.  There was an article here, on Friday, about a report questioning, it was claimed, the government's pure ICE ban by 2030. That report had, among its comissioning group, such manufacturers as Honda, McLaren, Bosch, and Aston Martin.

Comparing a Volvo XC40 with a Polestar 2 the report concluded that the pure EV would need to cover 48,000 miles before its carbon footprint droped below that of the ICE car. The article mentioned that the figure was "questioned" by "EV advocate" Auke Hoekstra, stating that his analysis put the cross over "as low as 20,000 miles".

Hoekstra wasn't questioning the report.  He was outright debunking it, and identified four key areas where the report was lacking and flawed in its analysis, and described the report as a misleading brochure.

Auke Hoestra may well be a lover of EVs, not just an advocate.  He is also well regarded as the world's leading expert on life cycle emissions of all cars, no matter their method of fuelling.  He holds a senior role at the Eidhoven Technical University.

On the other hand, the manufacturer backed report was written by a PR company run from an address owned by pone James M Stephens.  Who is James M Stephens?  Aston Martin's Director of Global Government and Corporate Affairs.

I know which I'd have more faith in.

Aston Martin need to focus on what the future holds, not dick around with misleading pseudo-statistics.



The Colonel 30 November 2020

This website gets more weird.  It prevented me from posting for the use of a single hyphen.  .  Good grief.

100 percent EV cars with the ability to fly are far more likely to happen than Autocar getting into the 21st Century.

(and I even had to write percent instead of using the globally recognised symbol FFS)

Strider 30 November 2020

I haven't heard that and I can't find any evidence. Where did you find this revelation? For a definitive answer, which very importantly covers the full environmental impact not just CO2, E4Tech and Ricardo have recently produced a tome for the EU that is pretty much state of the art, but very hard reading.

The Colonel 30 November 2020

About the PR company publishing dodgy studies, I read about that in an article from Michael Liebriech, who was actually looking at it from an investment point of view as he believes that AMs institutional investors will not look kindly on such a sleight of hand, especially if Stock Market or governance rules have been broken.

For Auke Hoekstra's take on it, for the statistics, you could start at his Twitter feed where he has a long thread about it...he shows his workings too.

What's important about this is that it's exactly the kind of poor reporting that leads to mass information in respect of very important social issues that demand serious attention and examination, and not dog whistle headlines.

Strider 30 November 2020

I agree that the reporting is wooly and lacks insight. Whole LIfe is an elephant in the room that needs to be more widely understood. While journalsits and governments refer to EV as Zero Emission Vehicles, people without perspective will continue to make decisions based on incorrect information. However, I have the Polestar report and can see no indication of any association with any vehicle manufacturer outside its parent group. I don't see why Aston Martin would want to secretly support secretly this report, I can see no worthwhile benefit for them as they now have access to Daimler's considerable electrification expertise and product pipeline. The press release on the report was issued by Volvo's Polestar person and widely distributed. I think your source might be confused.

The Colonel 1 December 2020

No, not confused but I think we are at cross purposes, which only serves to highlight the issue. The report that Autocar ran a piece on, which promoted the "50,000 miles" claim was not the Polestar report, by Volvo.  

Volvo were not involved, at all, with the Decarbonising Road Fuel report but Aston Martin were, and that report lifted part of the Volvo report (with citation) and used it entirely without context or the figures to back it up. This is what has been headlined in the wider press, however, right in the shadow of Johnson announcing the ICE ban by 2030, and Autocar, among others, led with it as a rebuttal to the government's plan. Now that report cannot have been whipped up in very short order but (my conjecture) it certainly might have been in the works in respect of the previously announced 2035 ban, announced only 9 months ago, which would make sense.  

Considering the involvement on Honda, and the heavy use of "e-fuels" in the report it would be reasonable to suggest that it's an attempt at push back against electrified only powertrains, for a company where a 15 year deadline might have been a push, but a 9 year deadline certainly would be especially since they benched EV development. 

The company that published it, Clarendon Communications, is listed as being at the home of James M Stephens and a named relative of his is a director of Clarendon Communications. Further, the foreword of that report was by Matt Western, the MP for Warwick and Leamington which has, in the constituency, Gaydon. This could all, of course, be coincidence. 

Strider 30 November 2020

I completely agree that the Formula 1 activity is for Mr Stroll's personal gratification and of very little benefit to the company. Aston Martin has its own space as a GT brand; it's what you buy when 911s seem just a touch too plasticy and ubiquitous. But on electrification, I don't agree and you have missed one of the key terms of the recently upgraded deal with Daimler. Aston tried developing its own electric powertrain and even with the very costly help of Williams Advanced Engineering, discovered it's risky and expensive to get a world-class powertrain into production. Bentley do it so well because its parent already has world-class technology. RR too. Aston now has an agreement to use Mercedes technology, so can catch-up quickly and now the share price is over the 64p threshold, affordably too.