Aston Martin at the British Embassy
I got an invitation from my local Aston Martin dealership to attend an event at the British Embassy in Washington DC. Damn right I accepted. I got to chat with Aston Martin’s CEO and CMO, see some familiar faces, and make some new friends.
It's a lovely day when you get an invitation sent on behalf of the British Ambassador to attend an Aston Martin event at the embassy in Washington, DC. Of course, I accepted. We pulled the rally graphics off the grey car, washed it, and then got ourselves all dolled up. We were looking great and feeling fly when we left the house.... and then a dump truck hit a huge puddle and covered half our car in mud.
The embassy guard had us park off to the side when we arrived.
The event itself was perfect timing. At that point I'd been chatting with one of Aston Martin's top executives, and he just happened to be attending that event. Being able to meet in person with an AML executive based in England just an hour from my house was incredibly fortuitous, not to mention convenient.
I'm already stupefied by Redpants' growth. To find myself having a conversation with Aston's top echelon - that takes things to a whole new level! I'll go over the topics of discussion in my next blog post. For this one, let's go over the event itself.
The stated purpose of the event was to showcase the DB11. In reality, it was a reception prior to some important meetings taking place the next day. Attendees were a mix of AML executives, AMOC members, dealership owners, and politicians. Even though the event was supposed to be centered on the DB11, it was barely mentioned. And why bother, really? Everyone there was already familiar with the DB11, except maybe the politicians. So although the event was supposedly about the DB11, the speeches barely touched upon the car. They did have one staged there, and I got a picture with both Andy and Simon - Aston Martin Lagonda's CEO and CMO, respectively.
Sir Kim Darroch, the British Ambassador to the United States, gave an introduction that included quotes from both Winston Churchill and Jeremy Clarkson, as well as some comments of gratitude for the cooperation of the US's and UK's intelligence agencies - the event was just after the Manchester bombing. That was followed by a speech by Andy Palmer, the CEO of Aston Martin Lagonda. His speech was laced with hints that I found rather interesting.
Aston Martin has a range of seven models in the pipeline (including the DB11). The Valkyrie is going to usher in a new era of Aston Martins: mid-engine cars. This may not come as a surprise for anyone that keeps tabs on Aston Martin's news feed, as they announced in December that Ferrari's now-former Head of Innovation has been appointed as Aston's new Chief Technical Officer. Andy also made it clear that he doesn't think there's a "truly beautiful" SUV on the market, and Aston Martin will be the first to make one. He stressed this point, and... he never once said DBX. To me that makes it clear that the DBX will be aimed at the luxury crossover market while a yet to be announced vehicle will squarely aim for the highest-end of the full-size SUV market, which is currently dominated by Range Rover and now includes the Bentley Bentayga.
Other things that might be of interest are that the Vanquish name will likely continue with the current one's successor. The DBS name is probably going to return (I still don't get why people keep talking about a "DB11S" as the DBS name seems so obvious). And the next Vantage... well, everyone that has seen it gets a twinkle in their eye when they think back on its design. It's a mix of DB10, Vulcan, and shark, with a phenomenal interior. I tried to get Andy to show me a picture but he played coy about it, quickly scrolling through the image album on his cell phone and saying, "Huh, can't seem to find one."
I can't wait for the new Vantage to come out. Yes, it'll have an AMG GT drivetrain and electronics. But that isn't a bad thing (knock on wood). Aston has already shown it will continue with its own engines by debuting their all-new twin-turbo 5.2L V12 in the DB11. The outgoing V8 is a relic compared to other engines in the market. It doesn't have the power, fuel efficiency, or emissions to be competitive in a global market. Plus, buying an Aston Martin will be the only option if someone wants to pair the AMG GT's engine with a manual transmission. Yes, that's a fact.
Another thing Andy was keen to point out is the company's financial footing is better than it has been in a very long time. He went over some financial highlights, including turning a profit, and market position compared to Ferrari. (There were a number of references to Ferrari, and this right after rumors surfaced about an Aston Martin Lagonda IPO. Ferrari went public and that stock has been doing well. Are these references just a coincidence? Hmmm... I wonder.)
Aside from the car stuff, it's always fun to attend events like this because of the people there. The people you meet are a huge part of why I'm an AMOC member. When I first arrived at the event, a guy came up to me and introduced himself, saying he recognized me from my videos. I'll be honest, it made me feel like a minor celebrity! Turns out he's a customer of mine, and he and his wife Paula live right down the street from a friend of mine up in Maryland. I also ran into a guy I'd met previously at an event at Keswick Hall, near Charlottesville, Virginia. Aston's former CEO, Dr. Ulrich Bez, was at that event, and he signed our cars for us. When I ran into Steve, we both knew we had to get Andy to do the same - and we did!
It was great talking with Andy and Simon. Andy's a very down-to-earth guy and, honestly, I don't think he's too accustomed to the "glamorous" side of the automotive industry. He's a guy doing his job, and the swank trappings of Aston Martin's luxury microcosm didn't seem to be natural for him.
When we were at my car so he could autograph it, we heard someone tell us to lean in closer for a picture. Andy and I both leaned in, hunched under the hood of my car, him trying to smile for a picture while simultaneously see the strut brace he was writing on. It was odd for me, and I couldn't imagine what it was like for him. So I asked. "Is this as awkward for you as it is for me?"
"Oh my God, yes! Yes it is!"
The moment was captured in a wonderfully unglamorous picture. (I think it was Paula that took it, sorry if I'm mistaken!)
In a way, it reminds me of my first encounter with Dr Bez at Aston's Gaydon HQ back in 2013. Equally awkward for me, yet he took the, um, incident in stride. But that's a story for another day.