Just who is the big technology firm Aston Martin Lagonda is working with to develop the Lagonda Vision concept into production for 2021?
Aston originally wanted to announce the partner at the same time as the concept’s Geneva motor show reveal, given that the concept is intended to showcase the electrified and autonomous car of the future as well as a luxury one.
Even more so, given that Aston is definitely not known for is cutting edge in-car infotainment; the confirmation of the technology partner would give greater credibility to the claims Lagonda is a game-changer in integrating technology into a luxury car.
There’s no announcement because the deal isn’t quite done yet. We understand that talks are ongoing still with a small number of some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley. Aston is talking to two to three firms maximum, but most seriously of all with just the one firm, unnamed still by all sources. Aston has a preference, and a deal is imminent.
The deal will bring a huge Silicon Valley name into the development of an exciting, start-up-style car from one of the most evocative brands in the world. There is a consensus in Silicon Valley among the big tech names that they will not make physical cars in the traditional sense, so the Lagonda project presents itself as from a proven, viable car maker that rejects most industry conventions and embraces technology at its core.
The obvious name is Apple. Lagonda is a premium product, as is Apple. Apple cancelled its own car development plans last year, yet remains attracted by the impact and riches that can be made from the automotive industry.
Aston’s design director, Marek Reichman, is a college contemporary of Apple’s design chief, Jonathan Ive, and Reichman is known to have visited Apple’s vast new headquarters early last autumn. He was back in Silicon Valley just last month as part of the Lagonda project, although his destination that time is unknown.
Apple was also the company name-checked most by Reichman when showing me the concept car last week, stating it was the kind of luxury car Apple or Google executives would drive instead of a Rolls-Royce or Bentley. In referencing the Lagonda’s extreme and unfamiliar design, he noted that, rather than be led by convention and evolution, Apple also came up with completely new concepts that people then bought.
But Aston’s net is cast wider, and Apple isn’t the only name in town. Through its Waymo project, Google is developing the exact kind of autonomous technology that Aston is looking to place at the core of all Lagonda models, and it too is a premium name.
Uber is doing a similar thing to Google, yet the business models and target customers of Uber and Aston would appear to jar rather than fit. Facebook isn’t really involved in car development, at least publically. Amazon will be more interested in the delivery side of autonomy, while Microsoft is from Seattle and is already working with a Chinese company on car technology. Tesla, Silicon Valley’s biggest car maker, is a rival to Aston and already has enough on its plate.
There's also Korean mobile phone giant Samsung, whose Silicon Valley-based research centre is developing an autonomous system called Drvline. A wildcard could be a smaller firm such as self-driving specialist Aurora, which has already done deals with Volkswagen, Hyundai and Byton.
And then there are the software company giants developing back-ends and processing power rather than front-ends and brand names that we interact with each day – the likes of Nvidia, Cisco and Intel.
If not Apple, Aston’s partner is most likely to come from a company such as this, which would allow Lagonda to be an Aston Martin Lagonda, and not be known as the ‘Apple car’.
Whoever the partner, all this plays perfectly into the hands of Aston CEO Andy Palmer. He is known to be preparing an IPO for Aston, and talk of working with any of these firms can only be good news for the company in getting into bed with a Silicon Valley-based darling of the stock markets.