STUTTGART -- Aston Martin will produce a four-door, four-seat car based on the Rapide concept in the summer of 2007, suppliers say.
The surprisingly quick launch will give the British company a two-year lead on Porsche in creating a four-door niche atop its lineup. Porsche's Panamera, which has a similar layout, is expected in 2009 or early 2010.
Aston Martin, owned by Ford Motor Co., unveiled the Rapide as a concept at the Detroit auto show last month. Aston called it production-ready, but few expected the $250,000 Rapide to arrive so soon.
Start of production of the Rapide is scheduled for August 2007, suppliers told Automotive News Europe.
One supplier source said Aston Martin plans to build 3,000 to 3,500 Rapides a year. Porsche is planning at least 20,000 units a year.
Porsche approved the Panamera project last July but has just started development.
"Porsche takes four years to make a new car, so the Panamera will be on the market not sooner than 2010," a supplier executive said.
Porsche said last summer that the Panamera was coming in 2009.
The Rapide and the Panamera have similar mechanical layouts -- a front, longitudinally mounted engine driving the rear wheels -- and coupe-style bodies with four doors. But they use radically different structures.
The 196.9-inch-long Rapide has an all-aluminum structure based on Aston Martin's VH architecture. The Porsche Panamera is expected to have a steel unibody, as do the 911 and the Cayenne.
Aston Martin CEO Ulrich Bez spearheaded the Rapide project. Bez has wanted to build a four-door, four-seat coupe since he was responsible for product design and development at Porsche in the early 1990s.
Indeed, Bez developed one, called the 989 project, while at Porsche. But the project was killed in 1992.
Bez left Porsche in 1993 to become Daewoo Motor's chief technical officer. After joining Aston Martin in 2000, Bez resumed work on his dream car.
You may e-mail Luca Ciferri at [email protected]