Sure, Americans know what Aston Martin is. Mostly. Palmer compares it to the British game of cricket. Many Americans have heard of it. They might even have a vague notion of what it is, but that's about as far as things go. It's the same with Aston.
Candidly, Palmer places the blame squarely on his company, admitting Aston executives have been complacent about America. "We've got some work to do in the United States. I think we have assumed that you guys get it because you speak our language," he told a group of mostly US journalists at the launch of the 2017 DB11.
That ends now, Palmer said, and Aston's plan to fix the problem will come into sharper focus with the launch of the DBX crossover for 2019. The utility vehicle was designed for an American buyer because the US market is SUV heavy. The target consumer? Someone named Charlotte, a 42-year-old from Southern California. Palmer describes her as someone who wants an elevated ride height and functionality. "She's looking for that safe, secure feeling," Palmer said.
The company is adding 750 people and building a factory in Wales to produce the DBX. The site will be able to make 7,000 units annually, which dovetails with Aston's goal of making 7,000 sports cars per year. It's an ambitious plan for a company that made 3,615 cars in 2015 and posted an operating loss.
This potential growth is still a few years off, meaning the brand's new DB11 must be a success. Early signs are trending well, and Aston had taken 2,000 orders by the end of June. After that, the company will redesign the Vanquish and Vantage and add the usual open-top variants. Aston's investors have already funded the sports cars and the DBX, and product development spending rose 40 percent in 2015. Aston's ownership group includes a Kuwaiti consortium, Italian backers, and a minority stake held by Daimler, which provides technology like infotainment and V8 engines. In total, Aston plans seven new vehicles in six years.
Sports cars and a crossover are the pillars of Aston's plan, but niche businesses, like the AM-RB 001 hypercar, the limited-run Vanquish Zagato, and the Q customization business are also critical, reinforcing the traditional sporting notion of Aston. Electric vehicle technology will also play a role (the DBX crossover concept was an EV).
All of this makes up Aston's new identity. "We're not the fastest red car. We're not the snazziest yellow car. We're not the largest bus. We're Aston," Palmer said. Now, his job is to communicate that notion to Americans.