Aston Martin only had three cars on the floor at the New York International Auto Show, but it's not really a company that needs a big display to attract attention. Even one of its gorgeous cars could do that job just fine. Fresh off the announcement of the sub-$100K special edition of the Vantage line, Aston Martin came in to Manhattan more focused on the American market than ever. We were fortunate enough to discuss the company's current and future plans with Aston Martin's President of the Americas Julian Jenkins. It wasn't hard to get him talking:
Interview by Tony Markovich (@T_Marko)
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
You’re very welcome. Would you like me to talk you around the car?
Sure. Let’s check it out.
Well, what we’ve got here is our new addition to the Vantage range, which is our best selling range. This is the Vantage GT and this is about the closest you’re going to get to a GT4 race car, which is the car that has also been our most successful motorsports car. As you can see, the livery that we’ve got on this car is very remnant of the 1959 DBR1 Le Mans winning car.
But you can see here, this is about bringing motorsports and the motorsport appeal to the driving enthusiasts, so on the exterior you can certainly see that. Under the skin is perhaps where the story really needs to be told. It has 430 brake horsepower from the normally aspirated V8 Aston Martin engine, there is 361 lbs/ft of torque, it goes from 0-60 in 4.6 seconds and has a 190 mph top speed. Some of these cues that you can see on this car are directly off the track, the side sail that we have here. This is lifted directly off our GT4 and GT3 race cars.
And it's actually lower than the base model right?
Price point on this car I think may surprise a number of people. It’s actually just under $100,000 at $99,900 for this, which is quite a compelling proposition based upon the package that you’ve got, but more importantly, what this car is actually capable of doing.
This is something that we’ve positioned specifically for the North American market. Again, it commemorates the racing. It's something that will certainly complement the GT4 One-Make series, which is commencing in May and will be featured on seven tracks in North America in the course of this year. We felt there was an opportunity in this market.
And you also have the Vanquish right next to us.
This is the halo car, this here is really the icon. This is the Vanquish Volante, as we call our convertibles. And as you can see, a very special car. It's all carbon fiber, 565 brake horsepower, this is a normally aspirated V12 engine and a car which, you know, is just a rolling piece of art. It's just a beautiful, beautiful car, sculpted as you can see. The interior in this particular car is taking some of the benefit of the styling cues that our team back in Gaydon have put back together.
How has the work in the halo car trickled down throughout the Aston range?
I think perhaps one of the obvious ones here is the carbon fibre. If you look around the front of this car in terms of the molding, you see the shapes that we couldn’t have created unless we did so in carbon fibre -- the swages, the haunches -- from any angle, this is clearly an Aston Martin. And if you look across the rest of the range, you can see elements of that which have been brought into other models. You can see other models which have been brought to this car. I think another test of an Aston Martin is taking the badge off the front. Does it still declare itself to be an Aston Martin? And I think we’re very confident that each of our cars does.
What struggles do you come across in maintaining the functionality and the performance that you want while building some of the most beautiful cars in the world?
It’s always a challenge to find a balance between the two, but, from the ground up, our engineering and styling and manufacturing teams work very closely together to get that end vision that we have from the outset of any project, whether it's the cars that you see today or some of the specialized cars that we’ve produced over the years. If you think about the One-77, which was the $2,000,000 supercar that we created, just 77 of those were produced; the V12 Vantage Zagato, and even the CC100 concept car, all of those things, you instantly recognize them as an Aston Martin, albeit that they might have a slightly different take on a theme.
It seems like a lot of car companies are filling in the gaps and trying to reach very specific markets, reaching the little niches. How do you guys maintain your exclusivity while also trying to grow and expand the brand?
I think if you look at Aston Martin, we’re in a unique position. Today, we command a position in the market which is very envied. We have four models. We have the Vanquish, we have the Vantage, we have the Rapide S, and of course we have the DB9, which one might describe as being the absolute core of the Aston Martin range. But I think, as we look forward and as we develop the brand, let's not forget that we are still exclusive. Last year we sold just over 4,000 cars globally. And to us, there is that fine balance between brand awareness and exclusivity, which also matches what our customers are looking for.
What's the customization process like when a customer comes to Aston Martin with specific ideas? Is there anything the company won't do?
We actually have "Q" by Aston Martin, which is our bespoke commissioning area in Gaydon, in the factory. And that allows customers really to choose and be a part of the building of the car. There is an emotional attachment to Aston Martin and to somebody ordering their car and this takes it to a new level. So, whether it's the stitching and so on that you might see here, or it's taking it a step further or to the end, like the CC100 that we saw last year, really taking a rolling chassis and creating something which clearly meets the customer’s view of what they would like to drive and represent Aston Martin for them.
What's the next step for Aston Martin in regards to alternative powertrains?
Well, our core is sports cars, but I think within that and within the powertrains, we’re obviously mindful of where the way the market’s going and what our customers are looking for. I think we’d react accordingly to that. If you think back to last year, we actually had the Rapide S and we ran that car with hydrogen at the Nurburgring and that is indicative of the sorts of things that we could do if we wanted to move into that. It's a platform, it's a benchmark, it's a test for us and we will look to move in the direction of hybrids and alternates when the demand is there.
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