Rapide leads the way for Aston under new ownership

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With the deal finalized (pending regulatory approval), Aston Martin has announced that it will be going ahead with the production of the Rapide four-door coupe, previewed by the concept unveiled at the 2006 Detroit show. The company expects the new model to account for 1,000-2,000 units annually, bringing total yearly production for the now-independent automaker up to 7,000.

What else is in store for the future of Aston Martin? The DBS is already nearing production as the successor to the Vanquish at the top of the AM line-up. Ulrich Bez is staying on as chief executive under the new ownership, and Ford is retaining 8% ownership, so we can anticipate some continuity.

[Sources: Autosport and TimesOnline via Winding Road]

Although Aston has withdrawn its factory works team from the American Le Mans Series for the time being, David Richards has pledged that Aston Martin will continue its racing activities. Richards, who spearheaded the acquisition, is no stranger to Aston Martin, having previously steered its motor racing initiatives and providing the enhancement package for the V8 Vantage under his Prodrive firm. Richards joins the management as non-executive chairman, as he will undoubtedly have his hands tied up with business at Prodrive, which include the launch of a new Formula One team in the 2008 season that will put him back at the helm of an F1 team, having previously directed the BAR-Honda team.

The two Kuwaiti investment firms that backed the deal have assets in excess of $5 billion, which should place them in a position far more capable than the struggling Ford Motor Company to provide capital to Aston Martin to expand its activities. With the new money, Aston is expected to add at least 200 more workers to its current workforce of 1800.

The long-dormant Lagonda marque was included in the sale, but with the four-door Aston Martin going into production, it may stay dormant a while longer.

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