Auto blogMon, 08 Sep 2014
Aston Martin has a very interesting future ahead of it. While the British brand appeared to be struggling with aging tech for a while, fresh investment from Daimler may have shown a light toward the future with the brand getting engines and electronics from them. Also, former Renault-Nissan top exec Andy Palmer has jumped ship from the French/Japanese automaker to become CEO of the much smaller sports car company. Interestingly, though, new reports from unnamed Nissan sources have indicated that Palmer has been pushing to work with AM for years.
Three unnamed company insiders told Reuters that Palmer made attempts to convince Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn in 2012 and 2013 to invest in Aston Martin, but his proposals were shot down both times for unspecified reasons, according to Automotive News. "We looked carefully at the proposal but we passed on it," said one of the sources.
You can easily see why Palmer was eying Aston Martin even back in 2012. It's no secret that the British sports car mavens were in need of extra funding, well before the Daimler investment. Building vehicles these days is only getting more expensive with stronger safety and emissions requirements. Just look at the brand's desperate hope to get a side-impact crash exemption to keep selling its models in the US as an example.
Aston Martin has been without a helmsman since Ulrich Bez stepped down from the chief executive office at the end of last year, stepping back to serve as non-executive chairman in a semi-retired ambassadorial capacity. The British automaker, now on the cusp of a new era, has been running without a CEO since, but has now named Bez's replacement in Andy Palmer.
If you don't recognize the name, you should: Palmer has worked under the Renault-Nissan Alliance for decades now, rising through the ranks to become one of the top executives under Carlos Ghosn. Most recently he was serving as executive vice president of the entire group and chairman of the Infiniti brand, but like Carlos Tavares, who recently left Renault to run Peugeot, Palmer is now embarking on a new mission as CEO of Aston Martin.
Once the transition period is complete at the start of October, Palmer's role as Chief Planning Officer at Renault-Nissan will be assumed by Philippe Klein, who steps up from his current role as executive vice president of product planning for Renault. Read the statements from both companies below.
As part of an increasingly close partnership, Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler is reportedly preparing to increase its stake in Aston Martin by another one percent, bringing the German automaker's shares in the British company up to five percent.
The rapprochement between the two has been in the works for years now, and is finally beginning to take form. Mercedes-AMG is in the midst of developing a new engine with and for Aston Martin in an apparently similar arrangement to that which it has with Pagani. But that's not the extent of it.
Daimler will also furnish Aston Martin with electrical systems and other components, said to lead up to the eventual sharing of platforms: one to underpin future GTs and another to serve as the basis for a long-mooted Aston Martin crossover, now said to be back on the table and slated to launch in 2017. The prospect of using the partnership to reinvigorate both the Lagonda and Maybach luxury brands, however, has since been taken off the table, with both parties continuing those projects independently.
Mon, 16 Jun 2014
Both of America's domestic luxury brands seem to be stuck in neutral.
It's ironic that Cadillac and Lincoln got new bosses within days of each other this month. It's also a commentary on the fact both of America's domestic luxury brands seem to be stuck in neutral.
Commenting on the rush of events that rocked beginning and end of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Paul Truswell of Radio Le Mans said "the race is about the ability to endure, not just the ability of drivers to do what they do for a long time." The entire race machine, all the way down to the pit boards and radios, has to survive the stress and abuse of the entire day. This was the race to prove those words.
There were two Toyotas, two Porsches and three Audis, five of the seven led the race at some point, six of the seven ran in the top three. Toyota will be hugely disappointed that it didn't win when its car and drivers were so, so strong, but they gave Audi the kind of scare we haven't seen since the best of Peugeot's days, and Toyota did a better job of it even in the loss. Porsche blew away everyone's expectations, falling 3.5 hours short of a fairy tale ending that would have made Disney cry.
But Le Mans doesn't really do fairy tales. Well, not that fairy tale. Audi's Twitter handle during the event was #welcomechallenges. As usual, Le Mans answered for the entire field.
We're set to record Autoblog Podcast #379 this evening.Check out the topics below, or drop us your questions and comments via our Q&A module. And don't forget to subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes if you haven't already done so. To take it all in live, tune in to our UStream (audio only) channel at 10:00 PM Eastern tonight.
Discussion Topics for Autoblog Podcast Episode #379
There's been talk of late about the technical partnership between Aston Martin and the AMG division of Mercedes-Benz going beyond engines to include Mercedes sports car and SUV platforms for the English brand, perhaps as a way to kickstart the development of a Lagonda SUV. But AMG CEO Tobias Moers, speaking to Top Gear, said that's effectively out of the question because, "No one has the time to discuss any more involvement than that for now."
Moers believes Aston Martin will be so busy "for the next two to three years" integrating its AMG-sourced engine and electronics that it won't have the resources to devote to working out a platform-sharing deal; Daimler sources have already said that Aston Martin's development budget "just isn't enough" to even consider a whole new model, and that greater cooperation would require something like a larger ownership stake in the boutique sports car maker.
AMG, in the meantime, is busy with the recent launch of the GLA45 AMG, the coming C63 AMG and its rumored 4.0-liter V8, the Mercedes-AMG GT and its assault on the Porsche 911 among who-knows-what other skunkworks projects. Moers said the technical partnership is about profit for AMG, clear and simple, and, "All these rumors about platform sharing are nice but no one at Aston or Mercedes has the time to discuss them."
The Aston Martin Lagonda SUV concept revealed at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show didn't earn the plaudits the company is used to when it reveals new models, and it has lived an uncertain life ever since. Thought to have been scrapped along with the entire revival of the Lagonda brand, then thought to have been resurrected due to Chinese, Middle Eastern and Russian demand, another year passed before we heard more definitive talk about an Aston Martin expansion when AutoCar reported that the Lagonda could be built on one of Mercedes-Benz's AMG SUV platforms.
A report in Automotive News Europe indicates plans have gotten serious, its unnamed sources saying that the English carmaker is talking to Daimler "to extend their cooperation to building an SUV." Neither Daimler, Aston Martin nor Investindustrial, the managing partner among Aston Martin's ownership consortium, would comment. But with Investindustrial having pledged to expand the range, competitors like Bentley, Maserati and Lamborghini getting into the SUV racket and clear demand from current and future customers, it's easy to believe Aston Martin is working hard to put the pieces together.
One further potential bump on the road to an Aston SUV is the company's search for a new CEO. Ulrich Bez relinquished to top spot at the company at the end of 2013, and Aston reportedly will not finalize its model strategy without a new CEO in place.
The agonizingly slow courtship between Aston Martin and Mercedes-Benz has been a regular topic of conversation ever since the 2009 Lagonda Concept debuted, riding on a Mercedes GL chassis. Beyond that one polarizing concept, though, nearly every other attempt to pair the two brands up in a major way has fallen through. Only the technical partnership between Mercedes and Aston for certain components from AMG, which was negotiated back in July, has held up so far.
That may finally be set to change, according to an excellent profile of the two brands' relationship from Automobile, which claims that two platforms will unite the Germans and Brits. The first tie up is, not surprisingly, a sports car.
As Aston Martin's VH platform - which underpins every car that comes out of Gaydon - continues to age, the pressure will well and truly be on Aston to find a next-gen replacement to underpin the successors to the Vantage, Vanquish, DB9 and Rapide. Automobile claims Mercedes has just such an architecture, in the form its new modular sports car platform. This new platform is slated for the next-generation SLK and SL and is still in its design infancy.
With the recent increase in higher-performance versions of already high-performance vehicles, like Mercedes-Benz and its AMG Black Series, the public is now gaining even greater access to speed and maneuverability. Two of the most recent sports cars to get their wicks turned up include the Jaguar XKR-S GT and the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S.
Both of these cars are the pinnacles of their lines, with the Jag lording over the XKR-S, XKR and XK while the Aston rules over the standard V8 Vantage S and V8 Vantage. Motor Trend has opted to pit the two rivals together for some thorough testing, and it just happened to bring along a few video cameras to capture all the action.
There's nearly 19 minutes of super hot sports car action below, so scroll down and enjoy.