SAN DIEGO -- To boost sales, Aston Martin plans to venture outside the realm of hard-core Aston loyalists.
The company wants conquest sales from owners of the Mercedes-Benz SL 600, Bentley Continental GT and Porsche 911 GT3.
But that doesn't mean Aston Martin is about to advertise on the TV show "ER." As the brand adds products, Aston Martin is concentrating more on one-on-one marketing.
"We still sell cars one at a time," says John Walton, general manager of Aston Martin North America Inc. "We are looking for people who add value" to the Aston Martin brand.
For instance, during a break in a press preview here, the brand hosted a weekend getaway for just six Aston Martin loyalists to test drive the new $156,350 DB9. Not only did it make the owners feel special, but it gave the automaker feedback.
Aston Martin also returned to the world of endurance racing, winning its class at the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 20.
And there is James Bond, who drove Aston Martins in movies in the 1960s. Bond is scheduled to return in 2006 in Casino Royale, in which he will drive an Aston Martin.
The automaker also has entered into marketing partnerships with watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre and champagne vintner Jacquesson.
"Our new corporate identity is that of selling luxury goods that happen to be automobiles," Walton says.
That's why dealerships are designed to look as if, were the cars removed, they would be boutiques selling high-end art, watches or handbags, Walton says.
Some dealerships even have created separate clubs inside the showrooms for owners only, with key-card access, wireless Internet connections and giant plasma screen TVs.
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