LONDON — The world's most contented Aston Martin customers today are Philippe and Marcus. Later this year, Richard will be similarly pleased, as will Charlotte in 2019.
Why? Because they've all had cars designed around their specific lifestyle and needs. Their contentment is illusory however, as these people don't exist. They're all "archetype" customers who were dreamed up to give Aston's designers a clearer idea of who they were designing for.
For example, the DB11 grand tourer was built for Londoner Philippe, a banker so confident in his demeanor he might well wear an archaic bowler hat simply for the fun of it.
Philippe, Charlotte and the gang are one of many ideas Aston Martin's CEO Andy Palmer brought with him from Nissan when he joined the company in late 2014. The DB11 was his first new model as CEO.
He arrived as Aston Martin was flickering back to life after one of its many hard resets, and its backers wanted an executive with the experience and vision to ensure this time the lights would stay on. Palmer, an engineer-turned-marketing guru whose raw instinct saw him promoted to Carlos Ghosn's right-hand man in his 23 years at Nissan, was that guy.
Three and a half years later and Palmer has just launched his second new model, the Vantage entry sports car, from a pipeline stuffed with fresh metal. Earlier this year he was able to announce a nine-year sales high for 2017 at 5,117 cars, and his first annual profit.
"He's done a solid job. He's applied his big-auto experience very well to Aston," said IHS Markit analyst Tim Urquhart.
Palmer diagnosed Aston's problem fairly quickly.
"It was a fantastic brand but not a fantastic business," he said in late 2015. "Basically there was no foresight beyond funding the next vehicle. That wouldn't earn enough to fund the vehicle after that and it would go into receivership."
Palmer reckoned the brand went bankrupt seven times in its first 100 years, and he created a plan to prevent that in its second century.