Mercedes-Benz Is Increasing Its Stake in Aston Martin
There was no great surprise at the announcement this week that Mercedes-Benz is set to take a sizeable stake in Aston Martin. For Mercedes the appeal in owning 20 percent of what remains, despite recent travails, among the world’s most-famous sportscar brands is obvious. And for Aston, which has been lurching between crises, access to Merc’s advanced powertrain technology while facing increasingly tough emissions standards is a lifeline. Since Aston already uses both AMG’s 4.0-liter V8 and the Mercedes-Bosch electronic architecture in all its cars meant salvation was unlikely to come from anywhere else.
But the press conference after the announcement also gave us a chance to ask questions to both Lawrence Stroll, the Canadian billionaire who bought a sizeable chunk of Aston last year and is now the company’s executive chairman, and also Tobias Moers, former AMG boss who has recently become Aston’s CEO.
If you’re seeing an obvious connection here then don’t. The new boss’ previous role had at least one bolder journalist suggesting he came to Aston with some foreknowledge of this new deal, but Moers denied it with a categorical “absolutely not.” Shortly before he left Mercedes he was involved in a boardroom bust-up when he was told AMG would ultimately have to replace its beloved V8 with a four-cylinder hybrid. He is definitely Aston’s man, not Mercedes’ – and Stroll continues to own a larger stake than the one the Germans are building.
But Aston is also set to take a significantly different path to the one it is on, with the target of selling 10,000 cars annually – it managed 6,000 last year – with Stroll admitting that a large number of those are likely to be SUVs. “We want to have a portfolio of front-engined, mid-engined and SUV products,” he told journalists, confirming he reckons that ’utes will ultimately be “close to the largest chunk.”
That means diversification with other models, but also the existing line-up’s rapid electrification for those parts of the world hurrying towards combustion engine bans. We’re told both mild hybrid and PHEVs will be developed, and that an electrified DBX is seen as the top priority. A full EV should be launched by 2025.
We will have to wait for any answer as to what this means for Aston’s relationship with Red Bull Racing, the one that led to creating the Adrian Newey designed Valkyrie hypercar. While that should be with us soon, there are substantial questions whether the second Aston-RBR project – the Valhalla – is going ahead, with Stroll’s Racing Point Formula 1 team set to become Aston Martin next year.
Moers did admit development on the hybridized V6 engine being developed for both the Valhalla and the mid-engined Vanquish that Aston is also working on might not survive the merger. “We are still working on that, but now we will have alternatives,” he said, admitting that buyers in this rarefied part of the market might “expect to have something that is more or less linked to F1, but let’s wait and see.”
As Moers led AMG during development of the Mercedes F1-engined Project 1, that raises the fascinating prospect of an even more exotic powerplant.
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