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European Report

Bond's Car Gets a Miniature Sidekick

Deep in the English countryside they still make some of the finest supercars in the world by hand.

The classic Aston Martin is accessible to millions on the giant screen as they watch its most famous driver, James Bond. But at prices ranging from $150,000 to $230,000, barely a few will actually see them parked in their garage.
Still there are many things changing at Aston Martin. The way they are built, the way they are sold and who buys them.

Aston Martin’s Vanquish will soon top a three model line-up including the DB7 and a new baby Aston.
Company chairman Ulrich Bez has a vision to boost production from just 850 cars a year in 1999 to 5,000 thanks to a new plant at Gaydon in the English midlands. The plant will build an all-new ‘baby’ Aston Martin, the AM305, which will give the automaker an outlet for expansion and a three-model line-up alongside DB7 and the Vanquish.
Its existing plants — close by at Newport Pagnell and Bloxham — will continue to produce the Vanquish and DB7 respectively. Say Bez, “In the long term we have to see how we can better use our facilities. The problem at Newport Pagnell and Bloxham is that we have run out of space and if you want to improve your production systems you need space. As we move production to the new plant we may use Newport Pagnell, for example, to carry out more and more servicing and restoration work — we are already working to capacity in this area.
The number of sales outlets around the world also will increase from 65 to around 144 by the end of 2003. Bez has identified the areas where it needs new dealers, mainly the capital cities in Europe and the U.S. as well as increased presence in the Middle and Far East.

Currently sales are heavily weighted towards the U.K and North America. “I would like to see 30 percent of sales in the U.K., 30 percent in other European markets, 30 percent U.S.A and 20 percent in the rest of the world. I know that adds up to 110 percent but that’s where I would like our order book to be.
Existing and new dealers will be largely paired with Premier Automotive Group partners Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover, but Bez does not rule out partnerships with other brands and he is particularly keen on small, family owned businesses.
“I don’t want to be with dealers who change their managers every couple of years. I want people who feel passionately about the brand, who will treat the dealership like their own home,” he says.

Latest recruit is Alain Aziza who, with his wife Astrid, opened a new, Aston Martin outlet on the prestigious Rue de la President Roosevelt in Paris in June.
“It is a superb location, amid the clothes shops such as Gucci and Versace. This is where we need our showrooms. In Italy, for example, we have dealers in Milan and Bologna but not Rome, in Austria we have no dealer at all. These are the issues we are addressing,” says Bez.
Dealers also will need to make an investment of around $200,000 to bring Aston Martin showrooms into line with a new image. The first site featuring the make-over was completed at Denver, earlier this year and Paris will be next.
In return for the investment, Bez promised more cars and bigger profits.
We are looking at around 144 dealers because we would like to sell 40 cars a year on average per dealer — for some it may be a few more and others a few less,” Bez says. “But it will be a better business for our dealers than it has in the past.
In the future, dealers will have a ‘minimalist’ look, with marble floors, brushed steel accents and modern furniture. The new Paris showroom was designed by Imagination and will be copied by dealers worldwide. It required an investment of $750,00 by Aziza.
Already Aston Martin’s top European dealer with 42 sales last year, Aziza expects to get an improved return on his investment when the new ‘baby’ Aston Martin is launched in 2004.

“This is a very good time to be an Aston Martin dealer,” Aziza says.
“The quality of the product is now very good and there are many exciting things happening for the future.”

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