There are any number of factors that are making it increasingly difficult for a small-scale, independent automaker like Aston Martin to stay competitive in today's automotive marketplace, from purchasing power to R&D capacity. But the latest factor endangering Aston's viability on the marketplace seems to be coming down to tighter government safety standards.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is enacting new side-impact crash regulations that require vehicles to better withstand the impact from running into a pole or tree – narrow-gauge fixed objects you're likely to find lining public streets. The standard has been phased in over the last few years, but while an exemption to the gradual phase-in was granted to low-volume manufacturers, even those automakers will have to meet the cut-off next month. And convertibles (which were granted a further extension) will have to meet them by September 2015.
Unfortunately for Aston Martin, two of its core models – the Vantage and DB9 – do not pass the test. That would mean that it would have to stop selling both those model lines (which just also happen to be its oldest), but a spokesman for the brand's US dealers is petitioning the government body to grant them an exception.
According to James R. Walker, chairman of Aston's US dealer advisory panel and owner of the dealership in Washington, DC, losing the V8 Vantage coupe, V12 Vantage coupe and DB9 coupe next month would cost dealers about 25 percent of its gross profits, and losing the convertible versions of the same next year would cut another 40 percent of their profits. The combined 65 percent drop in sales (assuming, of course, that sales of the recently updated but more expensive Vanquish and Rapide wouldn't rise to make up for it) would mean that many of the 35 dealers across the US would have to close, putting the 230 people who work at the dealers (and another 300 related personnel) out of work.
On that basis, Walker is asking the government to grant an exemption for the DB9 through August 2016 and for the Vantage through August 2017. By then, we're lead to assume, their replacement (or replacements) will have arrived, meeting the new crash standards. We've reached out to Aston Martin for comment on the issue and will update you as soon as we hear back. In the meantime, voice your opinion on the issue in our online poll below.
|Yes. If they're unsafe, they're unsafe. No exceptions.||1987 (27.3%)|
|No. These rules are unfair to low-volume manufacturers.||4954 (68.0%)|
|I don't know.||349 (4.8%)|