Excellent name recognition and reputation are key elements of successful luxury-market products, whether they are handbags or limousines. Aston Martin's primary shareholder, Kuwaiti firm Investment Dar, is planning to take advantage of Aston Martin's cachet by expanding the brand to include everything from apparel and owners events to track days and real estate.

By teaming with Mercedes on ventures for new engines and even new models, Aston Martin can leverage the experience and manufacturing expertise of the German company to help it grow. As for the current Aston Martin cars themselves, don't worry - they will remain handmade in the UK. In fact, everything currently made in the UK will continue to me made in the UK. Only new additions to Aston's brand will be made elsewhere, reports Automotive News. Some of those new products could include new models of Aston Martin cars, or some components. Plans are to increase production to 8,000 cars in 2008, a 1,000 car increase over last year. That would put the Gaydon plant near maximum capacity of 9,000 cars annually. Any further production would obviously have to be outsourced, and that's where the Mercedes alliance steps in.

Sales increases are aimed at the Middle East, which currently receives around 300 Astons per year, and Russia and China. Russia already has an Aston Martin dealership, but will get another this year, and China recently opened its first dealership.

New 'brand centers' are being developed for the UK, Middle East and possibly even the U.S. What, exactly these centers will do is still somewhat nebulous, but if the merchandising plans play out, they could effectively turn into Aston Martin outlet stores. Final details on the arrangement with Mercedes and the expansion of the Aston Martin brand and line-up have not yet been reached.