BEIJING -- China’s policies to cut pollution are driving a rapid move toward electric vehicles in the world’s biggest market and causing upheaval in the global auto industry, Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer said.
“This whole show is revolving around what they call new-energy vehicles, but Chinese policy is very much driving the move towards electric cars and certainly Aston has to go with that flow,” Palmer told Bloomberg Television Wednesday in an interview at the Beijing auto show. “We’re probably in the biggest change in the automotive industry since we moved from horse to car.”
President Xi Jinping’s administration is implementing production quotas for new-energy vehicles, targeting a sevenfold increase in new-energy vehicle sales and considering a ban on gas guzzlers as China tries to reduce emissions in smog-choked cities and cut its reliance on imported oil. Conventional manufacturing giants from Volkswagen Group to General Motors are scrambling to gain a lead in the race for the future, competing with a slew of small startups.
China also plans to ease a 50 percent limit on investment by foreign automakers in what has become the world’s biggest car market, paving the way for more partnerships and deals, even as domestic automakers eye Europe and the U.S.
Aston Martin is "talking to everybody" to understand new technologies, as operations ranging from Internet companies to classical electrical suppliers innovate, Palmer said. “We are putting down a fairly significant number of people basically to pick up those trends and to tap into some of the technology here.”
The British brand plans to add some hybridization to every vehicle by the mid-2020s, with as many as half of all vehicle sales to be fully hybrid by that time, Palmer said. The rest will be powered by “efficient” gasoline engines.
Aston Martin unveiled the Lagonda Vision Concept, an electric luxury car range that will have its first battery-electric model by 2021, in March at the Geneva auto show. The company will revive the 114-year-old brand to present its electrification and autonomous driving technologies.
Sales of the marque jumped 58 percent to 5,117 vehicles in 2017, the highest in nine years. Revenue rose 48 percent to a record 876 million pounds ($1.2 billion). All this came largely from rising demand in North America, the U.K., and China.
China is “also changing the tax structure and significantly reducing what they call a luxury tax on expensive cars, and that will drive growth,” Palmer said. “That saving gets passed on to the customer and that means their cars become more affordable.”