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.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Months Ago

      It seems like many of the recent NHTSA standards in the last 10-15 years were established based on reactions to some of the most rarest accidents/incidents where the majority of motorist wouldn't be able to remotely recreate the road/highway/vehicle conditions which provoked these standards initially.

      Items like forcing automakers to include rear cameras in every car is silly.

        • 4 Months Ago

        It's the "if it saves just one life, it's all worth it" mentality. It sounds good, and it's tempting to put an infinite cost on every life, but it's not realistic.

        All this safety equipment (particularly structural improvements to pass tests like the one this article deals with, or roll overs) adds weight. That additional weight may save one life, and cost another. We've also got one federal bureaucracy ordering auto makers to add safety equipment while another orders them to make them more fuel efficient. That their able to even keep fuel economy stable is a testament to the tremendous progress made by the industry.

        The EPA will have you believe (and this very well may be true) that increase vehicle emissions lead to poorer health and ultimately death. So that "one life" saved from a roll over crush by requiring more substantial A, B, and C pillars may have cost one life due to lung cancer or emphysema. Or maybe two lives were saved for every emphysema death. Or maybe three additional cancer deaths for every two rollover deaths prevented. Nobody knows.

        But when you have a government bureaucracy that demands more, more, more, and they are largely insulated from the secondary and tertiary affects of their policy (increased cost, more pollution, added risk to other drives as vehicle mass increases, and the ensuing arms race there, among other unintended consequences), then "just one life" makes for a compelling argument. And so we get more, more, more. And no one is held accountable.

      Nelson Escobar
      • 4 Months Ago

      I am sure those purchasing an AM Vantage/DB9 don't even consider whether or not meets these specific "safety standards." In no way does it make sense to enforce such a trivial matter, the government needs to step off.

      Rex Seven
      • 4 Months Ago

      When government regulations go overboard (and they are WAY overboard) all sorts of inconsistencies are revealed.  If a DB9 is too dangerous because of side impact safety then you have to outlaw all motorcycles.  Period.  Safety Nazis need to S T F U.  Mind their own business.  If you feel a car is unsafe, don't buy it or ride in it.

      • 4 Months Ago

      SOME THINGS AND ACTIVITIES ARE IN A DIFFERENT CATAGORY! YACHTS, SPORT PLANES LIKE P-38's etc should be outside of the usual "make it safe for the masses" rules,. not that the super rich somehow deserve special treatment but that essentially, they don't matter, they'll not harm more than a few who make their toys  AND they add a bit of exitement for us by their not  being idiot proof IN THE PROCESS of being and doing. Foorball injures many nore in a season than  exotic car, plane or racing boats have in the last century

      Jim Pease
      • 4 Months Ago

      I would vote NO in the poll but not for the reason given.

      • 4 Months Ago

      Why not give them an exemption for the rest of the generation? These low volume companies are getting exemptions for all sorts of safety measures, so what's the harm in a couple more Astons? Its not like its an exemption to rules that were around when the car was first sold. That I'd understand. This just seems unnecessary.

      That said, if they ban the Vantage, I doubt it will harm the value on the one I just bought.

      • 4 Months Ago

      I wish instead they would require large obvious labeling on the window stickers instead.  This would keep people from unknowingly buying them, but just like motorcycles, allow those who understand and accept the risks to purchase.  As a Lotus Exige owner, I am in the group of people willing to take that risk.  For me, the Exige is a more practical adrenaline alternative to a motorcycle, not family transportation. 

      • 4 Months Ago

      Who are these people buying this car knowing its a rolling death trap! Won't they look stupid for buying one new ?!?!?

      I don't think a regulation is needed to stop it, market would take are of it by itself (because it is not a mass market car). Just publish the crash rating and move on. Leave the choice to the people!

      • 4 Months Ago

      Wish the government would just let people make their own decisions when it comes to how much risk they're willing to accept when they purchase and drive a chosen vehicle. 

      • 4 Months Ago

      In the United States most accidents are caused by unsafe drivers not "unsafe cars".

        • 4 Months Ago

        However, it takes a safe car to survive an unsafe driver.

      A M
      • 4 Months Ago
      The average car buyer thinks they're purchasing an appliance, and has about as much awareness of the situation as a deer in the headlights. So, NHTSA works for them.
      I should be able to buy any car I want, regardless of safety, accepting my own accountability in making that decision. If I want an Ariel Atom, if it passes emissions, why not? I can ride a motorcycle, why can't I drive a car with just as little protection. Allow me to make a choice about my own life. I'm not saying I should be able to drive around in a death machine that kills other people, but, I should be able to make a choice about my own safety. 

      • 4 Months Ago

      The US is too hard on small car manufacturers like Aston, & Morgan.   People that buy a Morgan know that they are getting basically an antique car.   You can build a piece of crap hot rod, but not buy a newer & far safer Aston or Lotus?   

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