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Aston Martin: the personalised approach

BusinessofSport (Read-Only)

 

The UAE leads Aston Martin sales in the Middle East, with 37 per cent of the region’s market, according to Neil Slade, the general manager for Aston Martin Middle East and North Africa. The brand’s growth in the Middle Eastern market has shown admirable figures. For example, 25 per cent of the brand’s sales are from the Middle East and Asia Pacific region.

 

Selling approximately 4,000 units each year, Aston Martin has adapted to the Middle Eastern customer by focusing on its after-sales experience. The new programme focuses on the personalization of its cars, where ‘every single person wants something different’. According to Slade, Qatar is the leading country in the world for this personal touch.

 

With 15 franchises in the Middle East region, the brand celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, with worldwide celebrations kicking off in Dubai with their top-selling car, the Vanquish.

 

How do you keep the DNA of the brand in tact with such a large focus on bespoke and personalization?

Well, of course the design of the car is always there, you can see an Aston Martin from a mile away. We will never play with the center console, and the design will always be the same, therefore you are never going to lose the DNA of the brand.

 

Most brands suffered during the financial crisis, as did your brand. Yet, one of the statements that came out from Aston Martin was that you will still be profitable in 2016. Can you explain?

There has been a launch of a £500 million investment program which you would have to say is huge, Aston Martin has never invested this amount of money before. This was kicked off with an investment from the Italian company, Industriale, who came in last year to take one third of the company and majorly put funds in to kick this program off with equipment from Aston Martin. This program is in place to help deliver the next generation of products, for 2016 and 2017. At the same time, we also have a collaboration with Mercedes-Benz, who hold a five per cent equity in the company and, with this, we will work with them to bring the latest technology to Aston Martin. We have just released our financial report from 2013, which stated that we raised close to £90 million worth of earnings before profit tax and depreciation, therefore we are still profitable.

 

Are there plans to open new facilities in the region?

In terms of developing new facilities in our region, we work very closely with our partners. For example in Saudi Arabia, our partner there, Ali Reza, for example, has put in a $2 million to $3 million investment into new showrooms and facilities, just for Aston Martin. In Dubai, we only came here a year ago, and we have just opened a new service centre here, another $3 to $4 million investment. We are doing the same in Kuwait and we have just completed a project in Oman as well.

 

Digitally connected cars, especially in the luxury and premium segment, are becoming much more popular; how far has Aston Martin gone with this?

We don’t have that technology today, but guess who does? Mercedes. This is where our affiliation comes to play and this is what will bring us to the forefront of that technology. They will bring a lot more technology to the brand; electrical and power trade, the two areas which we will definitely benefit from through the collaboration.

 

Would you say that this is the future for Aston Martin, to be more digitally focused?

It’s a sports car, it will always be about power, beauty, the soul of the car, and the noise of the car, which are all super important, but these days, it is expected for your lights to turn on automatically, your windscreen wipers to come on when it rains and your SatNav to be spot on; there are very high expectations these days, so it is almost becoming the standard, if you don’t have them, then you are seen as being behind current technology.

 

In terms of changing business models, if we think about premium watches, earlier Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons and Rivoli used to have a multi-brand retail environment, but now if you go to Dubai Mall you will see stand-alone stores of Vacheron, Montblanc and so on. More brands are moving to the stand-alone model, just like Aston Martin; you were with Habtoor and now you are a stand-alone. Do you think that this kind of model works for you?

Of course, when you are with a partner there is always advantages like that when they are already established in the market and they know ABC, but for us, so far it is working okay and we are happy with our current model. In Saudi, for example, it’s a franchise and it is the normal partnership concept, which is also working well for us. I would say that we have no bad experiences through doing this, it’s working for us, the advantages and disadvantages seem to outweigh each other. I do not think that there is any one correct solution, it depends on the product and it depends on the people.

 

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