British luxury car manufacturer Aston Martin celebrates its 110th anniversary this year, but its eyes are firmly on the road ahead, not the rear-view mirror. On May 24, at Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, in Antibes, France, near Cannes, the company unveils the first of its next generation of sports cars (see teaser image, here) and the following evening the new model will go to the highest bidder at the AmfAR Charity Gala at the hotel. Then, on May 28, a short dash along the Riviera, the brand’s Formula 1 team races at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Commenting on the choice of the Cannes Film Festival as the venue to launch the new model, Aston Martin’s global chief brand and commercial officer, Marco Mattiacci, says: “The movie business is where we belong.”
Aston Martin is perhaps best-known for its association with James Bond, which began when producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman selected the DB5 as 007’s car in 1964’s “Goldfinger.” In a statement, Bond’s current producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, told Variety: “Sixty years later, we continue to share a very special relationship, with the brand’s vehicles playing major roles in 13 of the 25 films.”
Mattiacci comments: “[The Bond franchise] has been a phenomenal platform to deliver awareness of and familiarity with our product.”
Marek Reichman, Aston Martin’s executive vice president and chief creative officer, reveals that the Bond production team had an unintended impact on one of the brand’s models, the Vantage. “One [of the Bond film directors], Sam Mendes, probably did influence the design of an Aston Martin because of the car that appears in ‘Spectre,’ the DB10. We went from DB9 to DB11, because DB10 belonged to James Bond. We never used it as a road car as it was specifically designed for the movie. There was a sketch that Sam [Mendes], Barbara [Broccoli] and Daniel [Craig, who played Bond] saw in the studio, and basically said, ‘We want that car,’ and that car took us six months to deliver from sketch to driving reality.
“Obviously, having to do something so fast meant that I didn’t go through the normal process of … it’s not procrastination. It never is. But I didn’t have the time to think. So it was a very raw piece of work, but it was acclaimed. And because of that, we then said, ‘You know what, our new Vantage, which became a core car, should take influences from that. So, it wasn’t deliberately done that way, but you might say that that movie influenced the Vantage program.”
Bond isn’t the brand’s only connection with showbiz. Other films and TV shows that have featured the brand include “Top Gun: Maverick,” “The Batman,” “The Crown,” “Infinite,” “Fast & Furious 7,” “The Persuaders!” and “The Birds.” In 2021, Italian director Luca Guadagnino shot a commercial, starring Josh O’Connor, featuring the Aston Martin DBX, the brand’s first SUV. VIPs spotted behind the wheel of an Aston Martin have included King Charles III, David Beckham, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Jason Statham, Elton John, Elle MacPherson and Jay Kay of Jamiroquai.
In 2020, Lawrence Stroll became the company’s executive chairman, and set out to make Aston Martin “the first [sports car] brand to align high performance and luxury.” The company is focused on the ultra-luxury market, with an emphasis on a bespoke approach. “We’re refocusing on much more personalization — we call it Q, from the Bond movies — much more tailor-made; personalization in every respect,” Stroll says. “And coupling that approach with performance to match the luxury, which really makes us unique in the market. There’s a lot of great luxury cars out there; there’s a lot of great high-performance sports cars out there; there’s really nobody doing both.”
Stroll believes the next generation of sports cars will drive the brand ahead of its competitors. “It’ll take us on a much more dynamic, performance-driven journey. The outputs, the horsepower are significantly greater, the vehicle driving dynamics are significantly improved. We’re taking some of this technology from our Formula 1 team,” he says.
Throughout its history, Aston Martin’s focus has been very much on quality rather than quantity. The mantra, Reichman says, has always been: “You need to remain limited, you need to remain bespoke, you need to remain precious, not be pulled into the mass market world that other brands followed.”
He adds: “We’ve made approximately 110,000 cars in 110 years; it takes Toyota about two days to make 110,000 cars. We have therefore always stood for excellence in rarity, craftsmanship.”
Mattiacci adds: “Our goal is always to sell one car fewer than the market demands.”
For some models, only a limited number of cars are manufactured. With regards to the Valkyrie, for instance, only 150 cars were produced, but there were 400 applicants for them.
The Aston Martin customer is seen as sophisticated and discerning. Reichman says: “[The car] tells you something about who you are. It doesn’t say, ‘Hey, I’ve got more money than sense.’ It says, ‘I’ve got more style and taste than anyone else.’”
Mattiacci says: “Aston Martin has that kind of beauty and sophistication that allows the brand to appeal to a certain kind of audience, one that does not want to show off.” Reichman adds: “We have always stood for beauty, performance and dynamism, but there’s an understated elegance to that.”
Rather than simply selling more cars, the company has another objective, one that social media and Formula 1 are helping it achieve. “We don’t focus on the transactional aspect of our business; our goal is to build a community, a community that shares our values,” Mattiacci says.
As technology advances, the exterior of the cars may not change radically, but it is in the interior of the car where the opportunities for innovation lie. “On the inside, that’s where you’ll see the biggest shift in technology because then you are more open to the digital space,” Reichman says.
One factor that is driving technological change is the crossover between the Formula 1 team and the road cars’ design and engineering teams. “The crossover is happening now: from a clarity of message, of vision, of performance, even down to color,” Reichman says.
However, he adds that, as always, it’ll be how it feels to drive an Aston Martin that matters most. “The driving experience, the sensation that you feel on the inside, the smell, the touch, and to some extent the sound, is vitally important to keep you engaged with the product.”
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