On March 12, 2007, Ford sold Aston Martin to a consortium led by David Richards (of Prodrive and WRC fame) together with Aston Martin collector John Sinders and Kuwaiti-based companies Investment Dar and Adeem Investment Co.
Four months later, a Vanquish S was the last car to roll out of the Newport Pagnell plant before production was transferred to Gaydon. Ever since, the British automaker has increased its worldwide presence considerably; it even opened its first dealerships in China.
According to the report, finding them is not that difficult: two sources familiar with the subject said that Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra is one of the parties that have already expressed their interest.
Convincing them to pay the US$800 million Investment Dar wants for its stake, on the other hand, is where things start to go awry.
Aston Martin’s director of brand communications Janette Green said that Investment Dar is not considering a sale and Mahindra spokeswoman Roma Balwani declined to comment on the subject.
Yet, analysts believe that Aston Martin will probably have to tie up with a big automotive group anyway if it wants to stay in the same league with the likes of Ferrari and Bentley.
“I don’t think you can truly compete without having the capabilities of a large company behind you”, said independent auto analyst John Wolkonowicz. “There are very few examples of sustained success without it.”
Another source claimed that Toyota hired an auditor in the summer to conduct a preliminary analysis, which however didn’t move on to a full evaluation. Toyota spokeswoman Shino Yamada also declined to comment.
Despite officially refuting Bloomberg’s report, Investment Dar may be willing to pay: in May 2009, it missed payment on an Islamic bond and, under Kuwait’s Financial Stability Law, in February 2011, it agreed to reorganize US$4.9 billion of debt.
Besides, Aston Martin is in a peculiar position: all of its models, bar the Toyota iQ-based Cygnet city car, are based on the same, Ford-developed, VH platform, because the cost of developing a new one is prohibitive for such a small company.
While Aston Martin execs point out that the platform is being improved constantly, and last year’s sales were almost the same as in 2010, which means nearly 4,200 units, earnings before interest taxes, depreciation and amortization decreased by 18 percent.
Being under the roof of a large manufacturer, though, gives you access to technologies and budgets that would, otherwise, one would not dare dream of.
BMW owns Rolls-Royce and Fiat has long since owned Ferrari and Maserati. Oh, and VW thinks that the world is not enough (Bond pun intended) but Bentley, Lamborghini and Porsche will have to do for the time being.
Aston Martin is the only one not belonging to a big group. Maybe Toyota, arguably one to look VW eye-to-eye, decides to buy another day…
By Andrew Tsaousis