Aston Martin was in a tough position before Canadian billionaire and Formula 1 team owner Lawrence Stroll came in last January and gave the company a £500 million-plus lifeline and became its chairman. The new Vantage was a sales flop, and a 2018 IPO proved to be disastrous. Andy Palmer, CEO of Aston Martin from 2014 and the driver behind the IPO, vacated his position last May, and Stroll replaced him with longtime AMG head Tobias Moers.
It's hard to imagine anyone more capable of turning Aston Martin around than Moers. He helped transform AMG into the profitable powerhouse it is today, and while he himself is a bonafide car enthusiast and a brilliant engineer, he's a no-bullshit businessman too. Yesterday, we had our first chance to speak with Moers since joining Aston Martin last August, and he gave us a full rundown of the company's future. And better still, reason to be hopeful about the brand.
One of his first major moves at Aston was to go to his old employers at Mercedes-Benz and strengthen their relationship. Last October, the two announced that Mercedes would up its stake in Aston from 2.6 to 20 percent, making it the second largest shareholder behind Stroll. In return, Aston Martin gained greater access to Mercedes powertrain technology, and Moers subsequently canceled a new V-6 in development.
"If that engine was fully developed, when I came in here, I would not stop [its development], but the engine was not on a mature level," Moers says. "It was a concept, that they just finished, and there was a need for another large investment to bring it to life." Given the need to invest more in electrification in the future, Moers thought it best to drop the V-6 in favor of newer versions of AMG's V-8.
Aston Martin's old agreement with Mercedes only gave the English company access to technology that was a few years old, and limited ability to tune the V-8s it was being supplied. Now, Moers says, Aston Martin has more-or-less full access to the latest Mercedes technology, and the ability to make truly meaningful changes to engine calibration. The upcoming Valhalla hypercar was originally set to get the Aston-designed V-6, but Moers confirmed to R&T that it will now have the AMG 4.0-liter V-8, electrified in some capacity and tuned to provide a unique character.
"You cannot take a Black Series engine and just put it in a mid-engine car," he says. "You have to move that engine up to a certain level of electrification. And that's what we're going to do now."
Moers also hinted that Aston Martin might put the AMG-tuned 3.0-liter straight-six in the DBX, and that a hybrid V-8 powertrain will make its way into the SUV as well. He thinks life is a little "too comfortable" for the 641-hp Lamborghini Urus at the moment. Also in the near future, a major facelift for the DB11 and Vantage with a significant bump in horsepower from their AMG V-8s. (The current Aston Martin Vantage F1 edition offers 527 hp, but that V-8 is capable of well over 600 hp.) No hybrid variants of those cars will be made, as Moers says it's too complicated to electrify a front-engine car with a rear transaxle. This will also likely be the last generation of internal-combustion powered traditional Aston Martin GT cars, as future generations will go electric. In the longer term, the Vanquish mid-engine supercar is still a go, naturally with AMG power, and priced inline with cars like the McLaren 720S and Ferrari F8 Tributo (or more likely, their successors).
A common criticism of today's Aston Martins is that they feel a little too Mercedes, given their shared powertrains and last-gen electronics. Not ideal for a brand whose cars are significantly more expensive than their nearest Mercedes equivalents. For that reason, Moers has decided that rather than invest in engineering brand new powertrains, Aston Martin will develop its own infotainment system and focus on making its interiors feel distinct and luxurious.
"We're in a different perceived ballpark regarding the market," Moers says. "Aston is the more expensive, the more luxurious brand. So we have to take care about everything, which is touched by the customer."
And now that Aston Martin has access to the coding for its AMG powertrains—something the company apparently never asked for before and instead relied on third-party engineering consultancies for workarounds—it will be better able to engineer distinct powertrain characteristics. Moers says that to him, an Aston Martin should be a great GT car first and foremost, but one that offers precise handling and old-school driver engagement when desired.
Moers has a hard job ahead of him, and many might argue that there's no saving Aston Martin, just keeping it alive for a few more years. But it seems he's doing all the right things here, investing in areas where it matters, and leaning on the technological powerhouse that is Mercedes-Benz. There's good reason to be at least a little hopeful.
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