Aston Martin promises 7 cars in 7 years--and profits

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2017 Aston Martin DB11

2017 Aston Martin DB11

With a show-stealing launch of the new 2017 DB11 sports car, Aston Martin has finally launched its "Second Century." The plan, to recast the British luxury automaker, took shape after former Nissan executive Andy Palmer was hired to turn around the struggling brand in October 2014.

We spoke with Palmer at the Geneva show for the latest details on the DB11 and for details on a future range of seven vehicles to be built in the next seven years--and for details on Palmer's plans to turn the company into a perennial profit-maker, something that's eluded it throughout its 103-year history.

2017 Aston Martin DB11 Live Photos, 2016 Geneva Motor Show

2017 Aston Martin DB11 Live Photos, 2016 Geneva Motor Show

When you arrived at Aston Martin in 2014, in what state was the DB11 project?

The design was originally sketched out by Marek [Reichmann] originally in 2012. Directionally, the surfaces were good.

What wasn’t good was the spend profile, the plan, the money. It hadn’t really gone a long way. What it needed was a plan, financing, a very clear commitment to a start-production date.

The second thing I wanted to do was to make sure the ride and handling was exceptional, and aligned with the look of the vehicle.

[It had] to look different. I should be able to bring in my 77-year-old mother, she should be able to point it out. That was an issue with the current vehicles.

2017 Aston Martin DB11, 2016 Geneva Motor Show

2017 Aston Martin DB11, 2016 Geneva Motor Show

You signed an engineering cooperation with Mercedes-AMG to supply V-8 engines and an electrical architecture. What's the current state of the deal with Mercedes-AMG? Will it expand?

The relationship’s very good, but we haven’t expanded it. We don’t feel any particular need to expand it.

If I come back and take a hard, cold look at the company as it was, we had issues with differentiation with the cars, with the transmissions, and with the navigation. Those were basically solved [by the AMG deal].

What does Mercedes give us? it gives us a darn good electrical architecture, perhaps the best in the industry, and access to the V-8 engine. We’re stable with that, we’re comfortable with that.

If we had launched the DB11 with the AMG V-8, colleagues would have been talking about how it’s really a Daimler. I wanted to make the first launch as pure as possible.

Is it possible to do a V-8 in the future? It’s possible.

[We're looking at] late 2017 for the first appearance of the AMG V-8. The most obvious car to get the V-8 is the Vantage.

Where possible, we'll do one car, one engine. It reduces complexity, improves the quality. It makes the differentiation between the offers more obvious.

2017 Aston Martin DB11, 2016 Geneva Motor Show

2017 Aston Martin DB11, 2016 Geneva Motor Show

What's the future of autonomous driving at Aston?

We’re not doing autonomous driving. It will be able to park itself, but I'm very reluctant on autonomy. I would choose not to do it.

We believe we're a driver’s car. There’s a point when your daughter’s Fiesta is capable of doing something, that’s the point where you have to start, but we’ll be dragged to the party kicking and screaming.

You absolutely do have autonomous driving in the case of Lagonda. He’s called James, usually.

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