Andy Palmer, chief executive officer of Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd Photo: BCCJ ACUMEN
executive impact

Aston Martin shifts up a gear in Japan with luxury experiences, new brand center

6 Comments
By Julian Ryall for BCCJ ACUMEN

Proudly clutching the coveted trophy for Company of the Year at November’s BCCJ British Business Awards, Andy Palmer, chief executive officer of Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd. announced to the assembled members of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan that the legendary carmaker intends to leave its rivals in Japan’s luxury sports car sector in its slipstream.

Given the firm foothold that a number of Europe’s best-known, high-end car firms already have in Japan, Palmer’s claim was a bold one. But already, just three months later, a brand that is synonymous with luxury, style, performance and, yes, James Bond is well on the way to doing precisely that.

Aston Martin’s profile in a market that the firm sees as critical to its future success has been raised by the opening in November of The House of Aston Martin Aoyama in Tokyo, its first global brand centre. And it will probably climb even further with the arrival in Japan of the new DB11 Volante and the first deliveries to customers of the new Vantage in summer.

New home

The firm, which can trace its roots back to 1913 and is currently based in Gaydon, Warwickshire, has big ambitions for its cars—and also experiences associated with its vehicles.

“The House of Aston Martin Aoyama offers visitors the opportunity to learn about Aston Martin’s heritage, lifestyle experiences and design philosophies, with the latest range of products available in the adjacent dealership facility”, said Palmer.

“It also helps to strengthen brand awareness, ultimately leading to increased sales in the region, and is a touch point for those familiar and unfamiliar with what Aston Martin stands for”, he told BCCJ ACUMEN.

The investment in the spacious Aoyama-dori property is part of the brand’s £500 million trade and investment programme that was announced by Palmer during his visit to Japan in August as part of the UK business delegation accompanying Prime Minister Theresa May.

That physical presence seeks to build on the strong success that was witnessed last year when 321 Aston Martins rolled out of showrooms across Japan, a sizeable leap from the 186 sold in 2016, while a mere 121 cars were purchased in 2010. Those figures make Aston Martin the fastest-growing luxury auto firm in Japan, according to the Japan Automobile Importers Association, with demand for the DB11 spearheading the growth.

The numbers also mean it is closing the gap on its rivals.

Aston_Martin_Tokyo.jpg

Cool as ice

With the brand centre attracting attention and new models being snapped up, Aston Martin is devising some very creative ways of turning potential new clients’ heads.

For five days from 8 February, a select group of auto aficionados were given the opportunity to drive a flagship Vanquish S and a DB11 Volante in the demanding ice and snow of Hokkaido, all part of the “Art of Living” strategy.

Aston Martin’s “On Ice” programme has been hugely popular in New Zealand, Europe and the United States, but this was the first time it had been carried out in Japan. Participants were given instruction by professional drivers versed in the skills required to get the most out of their vehicles in sub-zero temperatures and on snow and ice surfaces. The firm believes that the experience will demonstrate the level of handling and weight distribution for which the marque is renowned.

Ideal fit

Palmer said that his long experience with Nissan Motor Company Ltd. in Japan makes this his “second home”, and there are many reasons the fit between the brand and the country is ideal.

“We have a long and illustrious history in the market, with some of the finest pre-Second World War Aston Martins held by private collectors in Japan”, he said.

“The brand and our products are recognised for refined and understated British luxury”, he added. “There is a strong connection with Aston Martin and James Bond in Japan, as there is in most countries, but there are also a large number of high profile and high value heritage models in this country”.

One of the most recent additions to that list is the DB6 that was previously owned by Sir Paul McCartney CH MBE and was recently sold to a collector in Tokyo, he pointed out.

“Japan is an important luxury market and an important sports car market with highly knowledgeable consumers appreciating the rich heritage of the brand, the fine craftsmanship, beautiful design and the attention to detail that goes in to every one of our handmade cars”, Palmer said.

Aston Martin owners in Japan are a diverse group, he explained, although the majority are between 40 and 60 years old, hold sports cars and luxury goods in general in high esteem, and have an appreciation for “Britishness”. Japan is also home to one of the longest-running Aston Martin Owners’ Clubs in the world, with the current chairman having served in the post for more than 40 years.

Building for the future

But Palmer knows that the brand cannot stand still, with the Second Century Plan aiming to double the firm’s sales and make Japan one of its top five global markets by volume in 2022.

“We announced our Second Century Plan at the Geneva Motor Show in 2016”, Palmer said. “The plan is transforming our business and will deliver one major product launch each year between its announcement and the turn of the decade”.

After the release of the DB11 Volante and the new Vantage, the next carefully crafted vehicle to take to the streets will be the Vanquish replacement in late 2018.

“We continue to perform ahead of expectations, both in terms of financial performance and in meeting our targets for the DB11 and special vehicles”, Palmer emphasised. “This strong sales performance shows that our Second Century transformation plan is building momentum”.

And exciting developments are on the horizon.

Aston Martin makes sure it stays ahead of the competition “through innovation and hiring the best talent in the business—the Aston Martin senior team has been significantly strengthened, with recent hires from Ferrari, McLaren and Lotus”, Palmer said.

On wheels, the Valkyrie hypercar is another of the firm’s projects.

“The Valkyrie, which we are developing in conjunction with Red Bull Advanced Technologies, is an important part of our strategy as it will redefine the hypercar segment through its application of genuine Formula 1 technology”, said Palmer.

Only 150 road versions of the strikingly aerodynamic vehicle are to be built, with the 6.5-litre V12 engine and all-carbon fibre bodywork giving it an incredible 1:1 power-to-weight ratio and a performance akin to that of an F1 racing car.

A little further down the line is the first Aston Martin SUV and a new generation of electric vehicles, while the Aston Martin Meta Technology and Luxury Accelerator office is scheduled to open in Japan in 2018, to develop insights into luxury customer behaviour in Asia.

Clearly, as Palmer adds, “Japan is the key to Aston Martin’s future success”.

Custom Media publishes BCCJ ACUMEN for the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan.

© BCCJ ACUMEN

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

6 Comments
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I have seen what Andy did since taking over Aston Martin and he did one thing right for sure. He kept the brand positioning high, something only Ferrari and Lamborghini also did.  Aston Martin is helped by the fact that Jaguar, Porsche but most of all Maserati have all sacrificed the brand and quality for revenue and sales numbers. Only Porsche can survive that.  Mr Marchionne has successfully destroyed Lancia ( now only available in Italy and a shadow of what it once represented) , is doing the same with Alfa Romeo and Maserati has already gone to the dogs. The result of making sub standard cars, at lower prices, has seen an 18 months sales increase and now the numbers are falling everywhere.  Maserati can still maybe turn it around. Alfa has always been an underrated great car, never marketed well. 

Many times I have tried to convince mr Palmer to bring back the James Bond model, with a bodywork close to the original and also the interior as simple as possible and he will triple sales within 2 years.  It worked for Mini, it worked for the beetle, it worked for the 500.  And it will work for Aston. Mind you NOT a replica, but the real thing.

Right now, except for the ( bad )designer brands such as McLaren ( a bankruptcy waiting to happen), Zonda, only Aston Martin and Ferrari maintained exclusivity. And Rolls, but they attract a different kind of client, although there is some overlap.

So, Mr Palmer is doing a good job, helped by the bad job, at his competitors.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I've seen Rolls and Bentleys, but no Aston Martins here in Sapporo. A beautiful car without a doubt.

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A little further down the line is the first Aston Martin SUV and a new generation of electric vehicles

I'm much more interested in this, than a 6.5 liter engine.

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It's a pity that it's only possible to use a third of the car's performance in Japan.....

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@ robert maes.

You bring some very good points to your comment. But I am sorry. I have to disagree with you on some of your claims and assessments. I will defend my brands.

 Alfa Romeo and Maserati has already gone to the dogs.- Alpha is doing better than ever here in Fukuoka.

Maserati even better than Alpha. Record sales here.

The Aston Martin/McLaren showroom on Rt 3 here in Fukuoka is dead on most weekends. Fact. Come see for yourself.

Meanwhile our Ferrari sales are better than ever. A.M. will have a serious challenge trying to catching us in our rolling DRA percentages.

Alfa has always been an underrated great car, (agreed) never marketed well.- Really? We had the 2018 Giulia release party a while back. RECORD NUMBERS and best in Japan! Alpha even offered to pay all our marketing costs. TV, Radio, Internet, Mail inserts, Newspapers, Many were sold. Many are taking delivery now. Many are now on the waiting list and need to wait. We are back logged on that model.

Maserati can still maybe turn it around- No they do not. They are doing just fine in Maranello. The team is great. The brand is healthy in every aspect of business. The quality remains true to the vision of Alfieri Maserati to this day. Hand made right along next to some Ferrari at bespoke levels. I believe you and I could have some interesting conversations about the luxury/sports auto business. Hard to find others at my level in Japan. We have some differences of opinions, yes for sure. However Mr. Maes. I can keep it civil. But you made some really great points in your post. A.M. is one to look out for. They manufacture a solid car. When an A.M. comes in to our stock slightly used. It does not hang around very long. They never do. It has the best nose and grill in the business I think very sleek very sexy. That grill just iconic. It is reliable as well and does not break down like TVR's do. A very well made luxury sports car. The best thing it is British. I would love to Morgan take off. But wood chassis? Not sure.

Mr. Marchionne is a brilliant and fine CEO.

I look forward to reading more post and comments from you sir.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sorry for misses and typos got rushed at the end. As usual.

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