I probably was the last person to ride with Patrick Paternie on a new vehicle evaluation. Patrick passed away on March 10 following a race in his classic Porsche.
Patrick Paternie: Volvo Chili Cook-Off, Scottsdale, March 8, 2010
I spent two days riding in Volvos with Patrick. He had sought me out to be his co-driver and I looked forward to his commentary and stories. I knew he was a good driver and would never take risks that so many of the hot-shots on these press previews sometimes take.
Patrick regaled me with stories of how he and his wife Linda towed a big trailer behind a Suburban in Arizona and there just wasn’t enough oomph in the big SUV to keep up with traffic with the trailer following behind. He talked about how Linda had come to like riding in his Ford pickup because of all the room in the cab. He was especially complimentary about a drive with the Aston Martin Rapide in Alaska. He said the Rapide was much more capable than he would ever have thought. The folks at Aston Martin admit the car has been “placed at a considerable discount”. He travelled widely for his passion. I was jealous.
We talked about heart surgery I had undergone last November. “How did you know you had a problem,” he asked. “Sprained ankle,” I replied. That got me to the doctor’s office and to get a physical my medical insurance provides every year. Surgery followed a few weeks later.
Patrick never alluded to having a heart problem. He looked fit and healthy. He raced. He finished. He was 65. We miss him.
Aston Martin‘s history is of gorgeous design wedded to a racing engineer’s heart. These cars take your breath away, on the stand or on the road, even being crashed in James Bond films. Should I happen to find my life situation seeing the overwhelming change that would be needed to afford supporting a more than $300,000 DBS, would I? Maybe. As fantastic as these vehicles are, somehow they often get left off my what-if daydreams. They’re so beautiful, so expensive, and a sufficiently rare sight on my Midwestern roads that they can slip by. And there are so many terrific options these days it is only more and more difficult to choose. It truly is a wonderful time to dream, and in Frankfurt I was reminded to expand those dreams.
As time came to replace the Vanquish, Aston looked to the VH platform under the DB9 and V8 Vantage coupe and roadster with its bonded, pressed, extruded, and cast aluminum components. After providing a sneak peak of the DBS first in one of the most amazing crash scenes ever filmed in Casino Royale
and again at the 2007 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California (where Aston was this year’s featured marque), the car’s first auto show outing was at the 2007 Frankfurt auto show
in September. The DBS is being built at Gaydon, near Warwickshire, alongside its DB9 and V8 Vantage siblings, rather than the Newport Pagnell facility where the Vanquish had been built. It will be available during the first several months of 2008.
There have been rumors circulating recently about BMW buying Volvo Cars from Ford. Ford Motor Company stated on May 29, 2007 it is not in discussions with BMW or any other company regarding the sale of Volvo Cars.
But sometimes where there is smoke, there is fire. This rumor has been circulating for a few weeks now. The rumor goes like this… BMW has been conducting due diligence about the possibility of acquiring another brand. Volvo Cars and Alfa Romeo have both been included in the rumor, but Volvo appears to be the strongest candidate.
Why Would BMW Need a Second Car Company?
From 1994 through 2000 BMW owned Rover – including Rover, MG, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Mini, Land Rover and the defunct names Austin, Morris, Riley, Triumph, Wolesley. Whoa, what a lineup!? BMW practically owned the British motor industry with the exception of Jaguar. Termed “The English Patient”, Rover and BMW never gelled. In 2000, BMW sold Rover Cars (MG Rover) to Phoenix Holding Group for £10. They sold Land Rover to Ford for a hefty chunk of change. They got snookered out of the Bentley name and somehow Volkswagen ended up with it. They kept Mini and have made it a great success. They kept Rolls Royce and are presently building modest numbers in Goodwood in sourthern England.
But, BMW needs additional volumes to help its economies of scale. A second company would help BMW in negotiations with components suppliers. Volvo has the heft to help handsomely.
BMW Fiercely Proud of its Independence
BMW is advertising the advantages of its independence. They look down their nose at Lexus – part of Toyota, Infiniti – part of Nissan, Acura – part of Honda, Audi – part of Volkswagen, Mercedes – part of DaimlerChrysler. So, the idea of BMW acquiring some other premium brand has to be considered from the position of strength.
European media reports have speculated that BMW wants to expand its product portfolio, and would like to add a premium brand with front-wheel-drive models to help spread out development costs for its Mini range. (BMW has been spreading some costs already co-developing the new Mini engine with Peugeot).
Volvo could be a good candidate to fill that objective. One of the reasons Ford acquired Volvo was because of its excellent front-wheel-drive large car platform that underpins the S80, XC90, S60, V70, XC70. Ford uses this platform for its Taurus (Five Hundred), Sable (Montego) and Taurus X (Freestyle) vehicle lines. The lower Volvo models have platforms shared between Ford, Mazda and Volvo. How a BMW acquisition of Volvo could untie these relationships must be a central part of any acquisition strategy. (Remember, BMW V8s powered the Range Rover until the 2006 model year – a hang over from BMW’s ownership).
Volvo Part of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group
Ford acquired Volvo in 1999 for $6.5 billion and made it a cornerstone of its Premier Automotive Group which also includes Jaguar and Land Rover (purchased for $2.7 billion in 2000). Ford has sold the fourth PAG brand – Aston Martin – to investors for slightly less than $1 billion. PAG lost $327 million in 2006.
Reports say that Merrill Lynch estimates Ford could raise over $9 billion by selling the remaining PAG brands.
Nobody’s admitting anything yet, but lets see if the denials hold up over time.
Sporting Luxury: Four-Door, Four Seat Coupe Blends Sport and Luxury, Emphasis on Sport
As Porsche prepares the Panamera and Aston Martin the Rapide and as Mercedes-Benz saw some success early with the CLS four-door coupe, BMW is developing their own take on this recent sporty, luxurious four-door coupe formula. In an indication of automaker’s growing interest in China, as well as the penchant of China’s wealthiest population for ultra-luxury vehicles and BMW, BMW’s first worldwide concept car introduction in China was of the CS concept at the April 2007 Shanghai auto show. (CS for Coupe Sedan.)
The BMW Concept CS evolves BMW’s sporty flame surfacing to a much more mature and sophisticated look. The car looks taut and serious from the sides. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific see a fundamental problem with the approach being taken by the European carmakers. They are abandoning function for form. Clearly, the CLS, Panamera, Rapide and CS are beautiful cars, but as Mercedes has found with the CLS, they are difficult for a driver to live with. The rear seat in these cars is practically useless. And the rear doors in the 4-door bodystyle are only good for tossing a briefcase in. Our prediction: the buff books will love these cars, they will sell well at first to the Rodeo Drive crowd, but in the long run, they will act like sporty cars – popular for 12 to 18 months before fading out.
BMW’s upcoming four-door, four-seat coupe will go up against the Porsche and the Aston, as well as bridge a bit of the gap between 7-Series and Rolls-Royce. We wouldn’t be surprised to see it called 8-Series when it arrives, though this is not confirmed. The Concept CS is wider than the current 7-Series, though with a similar wheelbase and not quite as much overall length, and larger than the E-Class-based Mercedes CLS. The production car will look to 7-Series components for a platform, but indications are that BMW is planning this car as a low-volume proposition.
More will come as we learn it, but for now we’re happy to bring you the first official photos. The CS evolves the famously controversial BMW flame surfacing, resulting a crisp and dynamic look from the side and rear. The vehicle’s face, however, is simply awful. The kidney grille is much too large, and it looks more or less as though BMW is trying to create a wide-mouth, deep grille look similar to the one Audi is cultivating. The headlights sport a new technology that gives them a hooded look, and we can’t imagine why you’d want your sports tourer to look sleepy. BMW says the huge kidney grille is functional and would serve as the primary air supply to the engine, it just doesn’t work with the traditional BMW kidney grille. (BMW declined to indicate which engine was under this terrifically long hood, only saying that the need for such a large grille was obvious because “a power unit befitting the dynamic character of such a sports saloon most probably requires an ample flow of cooling air.” The long nose and short rear overhangs work well, and the interior does look fabulous.
In a move designed to shed non-core businesses and focus resources on higher volume propositions, Ford Motor Company has sold its Aston Martin
marque to a group headed by David Richards head of ProDrive
. While other offers were on the table from, among others, a group headed by former Ford chairman Jacques Nasser and even a bid from Malaysia’s Proton, the $925 million deal from Richards’ group was the winner.
Well it’s between the new Audi R8 and the Aston V8 Vantage in the auto lust of AutoPacific and VehicleVoice staffers.
Richards – Deep Auto Credentials
Richards has deep auto industry credentials. His company, ProDrive, has been closely aligned with Aston Martin in motorsports. Along with Richards, the consortium includes: John Sinders described as an “avid Aston Martin collector and backer of Aston Martin Racing”, Investment Dar, and Adeem Investment Company. Aston’s present head, Dr. Ulrich Bez, will stay on as Aston’s chief executive officer.
Ford Retains Stake – To Guarantee Source of Engines?
Ford is retaining a 15% stake in the company. This may answer questions about where Aston will be getting its engines in the future. As of now, Aston Martin units are sourced from Ford’s Jaguar unit and modified to Aston specs. With Ford retaining an equity stake this may guarantee Ford as the source for future Aston powertrains.
James Bond and Beyond
Aston Martin was founded in 1914 by Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin. It sold its first car in 1915. Perhaps Aston was best known as James Bond’s preferred transportation when heavily modified Astons appeared in early James Bond films. Goldfinger, Bond’s 1964 blockbuster, found Sean Connery driving an Aston Martin DB4. Aston Martins also appeared in a number of other 007 films, including “Thunderball,” “The Living Daylights,” “Goldeneye” and “Die Another Day.” More recently, Daniel Craig (he’s no Sean Connery) drove a DB9 as Secret Agent 007 in 2006′s Casino Royale.
Ford Involved Since 1987
Ford bought a controlling stake in Aston Martin in 1987 and acquired full ownership in 1994.
It appeared at first that Aston Martin would remain a boutique brand or fade away completely. Annual production dipped as low as just 46 cars in 1992 and many people wrote off the brand. But as part of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group Aston has flourished. Its resurgence began under the watch of Wolfgang Reitzle and has reached fruition under the leadership of Ulrich Bez. With Henrik Fisker styling the iconic Astons on the road today, record 7,000 Aston Martins were sold worldwide in 2006 and a similar number are expected to be sold in 2007.
Aston’s two present production models, the DB9 and the V8 Vantage are assembled in Gaydon, England. Gaydon has about 1,800 workers. Stunning Porsche (that had just announced its Panamera 4-door sports car), Aston Martin showed its 4-door Rapide at the 2005 North American International Motor Show. The Rapide is expected to be launched later in 2007.
The press releases issued by Aston Martin and Ford Motor Company today are shown below the fold.
The Aston Martin V8 Vantage went on sale in 2005, taking up residence in Aston’s lineup and the bottom end as the “affordable” Aston and gunning for the Porsche 911. As true of most all Aston Martins, the V8 Vantage is beautiful, with a hand-crafted interior and engine. The next step, of course, is a convertible.
Can I have this as my AutoPacific company car? I’d give up my Audi TT for it!
Aston Martin used Los Angeles as a backdrop for introducing their latest breathtakingly gorgeous roadster. Los Angeles is a strong market for Aston Martin, and convertibles as a rule sell in higher volumes than coupes in the States, so the decision to launch in Los Angeles is glamorous and smart. And Aston Martin convertibles command enough attention and carry enough presence that they don’t need a Hollywood starlet like Jennifer Love Hewitt (see the Sebring introduction) to introduce their convertible, though Jennifer’s scripted appreciation for the Sebring might have sounded more believable applied to the Aston. In fact, instead of a paid celebrity endorsement at the press introduction for the V8 Vantage convertible, Automobile Magazine
Editor-in-Chief Gavin Conway presented Aston Martin with an All-Star award for the convertible. (For our discussion the full list of this year’s All-Stars, click here
The London Times reported on Saturday August 26 that Jac Nasser, former Chief Executive of Ford Motor Company, has expressed interest in acquiring Jaguar/LandRover/Aston Martin from Ford. Nasser is now a partner in One Equity, a venture capital firm associated with JPMorgan Chase.
Nasser weighs in with a relationship with experienced venture capital and finance sources plus over 30 years of hands-on day-to-day working at a major carmaker in ever more senior positions. Nasser was chief executive of Ford Motor Company for three years before falling prey to the Explorer/Firestone tire failure debacle of 2001.
Nasser One of Many Interested in Jag, PAG or a Combination
Nasser joins Sir Anthony Bamford, head of Britain’s JCB as possible suitors for Jaguar. Bamford has specifically excluded Land Rover and Aston Martin from his interest, but Nasser is intimately familiar with Ford’s Premier Automotive Group that was established when he was at the helm. Of course other suitors may include the Russians and Nanjing Auto (exclusively reported by VehicleVoice).
Nasser, known as Jac the Knife during his Ford career (a monicker he does not like), could bring considerable expertise to the PAG crew. Land Rover and Aston Martin are doing very nicely, thank you, but Jaguar is a basket case sorely in need of new thinking from a product standpoint. Leave Land Rover alone.
Jag Needs Help From Folks Not So Close to Its Business
But Jag is a different matter. Even though the XJ Premium Luxury Car is relatively new and an outstanding product under the skin, it look too much like its predecessor. A major styling freshing was needed even before it was introduced. Consequently the new XJ has floundered. Similarly, the new XK Sports Car looks like its predecessor and has a Ford Taurus grille. Needs a quick front end facelift. Kill the X-Type quickly before it does more damage to the Jaguar brand. Renew the S-Type ASAP… presently in the cycle plan but too late. Needs to be pulled ahead.
Stay tuned to VehicleVoice as this intrigue unfolds over the next several weeks.
As VehicleVoice intrepidly reported last week, it appeared that Nanjing Auto had stepped in to acquire Jaguar and Land Rover, but hold your horses!
Now, after his diesel powered land speed record car set a new land speed record (improving the old mark by about 100mph), Sir Anthony Bamford, chairman of construction equipment company JCB, has expressed an interest in buying British luxury automaker Jaguar from Ford Motor Company.
“If they can separate Jaguar out [from Land Rover] then I’d like to buy it,” he was quoted as saying in an August 24 London Times media report. Now maybe Sir Anthony was a bit euphoric over his land speed record, or over the champers consumed afterwards, but this may be more than smoke.
Bamford says that he wants Jag, not Land Rover (the profitable part of the duo). Probably because he could get Jag for a song and would have to pay beaucoup blue sky.
Ford may not want to unbundle Jaguar from Land Rover and Aston Martin – Ford’s two other English Premier Automotive Group brands – because of the level of product integration the three brands have achieved in the UK and in the USA. Ford may try to insist that selling embattled Jaguar may only be possible as part of a deal involving Land Rover and Aston. Bamford is quoted in the London Times as saying, “If they sold Jaguar to me, Ford could then make a lot of money by selling Land Rover. Selling the two together won’t make much because Jaguar is regarded in the world as a dog,”
Ford has thrown billions of dollars at Jag since it bought the British automaker in 1989. After an auspicious start when Ford’s purchasing wizards helped Jaguar achieve spectacular cost and quality improvements, Ford has not shown that it understands a premium luxury brand much. The new XK and XJ are great cars mechanically, but not changed enough from ther predecessors in styling to turn heads to the degree required at the top of the market. “Perhaps we were too conservative,” said a highly placed Ford of Europe executive. Every Mondeo-based Jag X-Type sells hurts the Jaguar image incrementally. The S-Type, the middle of its range and worthy of selling substantial volumes, its almost-cartoonish styling has aged rapidly and is sorely in need of replacement.
Forbes Magazine reports that “Sir Anthony–whose father started JCB in 1945, before he himself turned it into one of the world’s largest manufacturers of earthmoving machines–may be the most credible candidate to date. JCB is a family owned, private company. It’s also very profitable–it made £110 million ($208 million) in 2005–and currently builds 45,000 vehicles each year.
Bamford is also a Jag enthusiast. “I knew [Jaguar founder] Sir William Lyons, who was a friend of my father’s, and he was involved in most aspects of the plant. JCB is run in a similar way. Although we are not in the car business, we are familiar with every aspect of lean manufacturing and worldwide marketing. All our senior management are involved in every aspect of the business. There isn’t an enormous structure and bureaucracy,” he told the 4Car Web site.
The Englishman is also bubbling with ideas for the brand. He proposed reconnecting future models with the company’s racing roots, criticized Ford’s decision to cancel plans for an F-Type roadster and suggested Jag needed downsizing.”
Also in Bamford’s arsenal is Mathew Taylor former managing director of Land Rover. With Taylor in the fold, JCB has the basics for a deep understanding of the inner workings of Ford’s English PAG brands.
Aston Martin May Beat Porsche Panamera to Market
At the 2006 North American International Auto Show, Aston Martin unveiled a concept called Rapide. Within a month or so of the introduction, suppliers confirmed to Automotive News reporters production is being planned for summer 2007. Aston could bring out its new sports car two model years ahead of the Porsche Panamera, due in 2009CY for 2010MY. Reports are that Aston is planning to build 3,000 to 3,500 units annually, compared with the Porsche’s 20,000-unit target. Comparing the Porsche to the Aston Martin is a touch misleading, however, as the Aston is likely to command a transaction price comfortably above the Porsche. AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents were on hand when the Rapide was unveiled complete with a designer pooch. We’ll take the car, you can have the dog.
The addition of the Aston Martin Rapide will give luxury-minded buyers several four-seat, grand touring entries to choose from by the end of the decade, whether two doors like the BMW 6-Series and Bentley Continental GT or four doors like the Mercedes-Benz CLS, Porsche Panamera, and Aston Martin Rapide. Though not necessarily direct competitors, entries like these similar philosophies, with seductively gorgeous exteriors, pampering and sumptuous interiors, more power than you ever need, and a driving experience tuned for the grand touring side of life as much as the sporting side. These aren’t racing cars barely dressed for the street like a Dodge Viper or Porsche Carrera GT, though they have enough power to win most stoplight challenges.