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Mon 18 Nov 2013 05:48 PM

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Can Aston Martin conquer the Middle East?

As their centenary comes to a close, the iconic brand's CEO discusses its future plans

Can Aston Martin conquer the Middle East?

This year has been a year of sparkling celebrations for Aston Martin.

From the flying Vanquish act that took place at Burj Al Arab to the resurrection of the 1959 CC100 and having Daniel Craig Drive the DB-5 from Skyfall , Aston Martin celebrated its centenary with elegance and grace.

Moves are however afoot behind the scenes. With Kuwait’s Investment Dar using part of their stake  in Aston Martin as backing for a new credit facility after defaulting on a $100m Islamic bond, they could sell the British luxury carmaker in 4-7 years as part of ongoing restructuring of its debts.

Meanwhile, London based Investindustrial acquired a 37.5 percent stake in the company last year for $223.7m and plans to rejuvenate its product lineup.

With multiple launches, such as the V 12 Vantage S and Vanquish Volante, it seemed like we were chasing event after event this year,  but is the money injected enough to maintain the new model development program in place, or will Aston Martin’s Sales Drop After the centenary?

Investindustrial has actually brought more to the table than a financial boost to Aston Martin. As the previous owners of Ducati, they have developed a technical relationship with AMG and now this relationship has been brought to Aston Martin with the announcement that specifically includes Aston using an adapted version of an AMG V8, which is a much needed upgrade.  Compared with rivals the Current Aston V8 lacks direct injection or turbos, and that means its 430bhp is barely enough these days, and is quite heavy on fuel.

AMG will be able to help on transmissions too, possibly with its dual-clutch unit, or its multiple-plate clutched autobox, and don’t forget that they provide V12 engines to Pagani so they will certainly bring a lot of long term value to Aston.

Aston’s current best seller is the Rapide S, but the brand hasn’t tapped into the most lucrative luxury car segment since the 1980s.

“Rapide S represents 35 percent or more of our sales. In my opinion, it is the best 4-door package. But if you need the big space you probably want to buy a long wheel-base Rolls Royce,” said Aston Martin’s CEO Dr. Ulrich Bez.

Yes, BMW has Rolls Royce, while VW has Bentley, and with the demise of Maybach, Merecedes is lacking a top-end brand. Though they have the new S-Class based Pullman coming soon, there is space for something above.

Either explicitly or implicitly, AMG has taken a stake in the business and will likely seek to close at the end of this model cycle when Aston is heavily reliant on Mercedes technology; and with that, we will probably see the birth of a new long wheelbase saloon.

The Middle East is the largest luxury performance car consumer market worldwide, yet it represents a tiny portion of the luxury car maker’s turnover.

“In the Middle East, most sales are in luxury performance cars. In Europe or in America, it is reserved for only 10 percent of the market, but In the Middle East it’s 90 percent.”

Bez realises that there are long leaps and great investments are required to maximize the brand’s potential in the Middle East.

“We are not developed in this market except in Dubai. In Dubai we have nearly reached our target of 100 cars per year this centenary, which is double our figures from last year. If you take this Dubai Success and you put it in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, I think there will be a stable growth of the brand in the Middle East,” he said.

“We are class, we are style, we are art and we are something very distinguished from other and this needs to be expressed in our dealerships. Right now, we are not like this.”

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