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.