Aston Martin Expands Stores; Debuts DB9

GAYDON, U.K. The new DB9 is the coolest car on the planet, Aston Martin CEO Ulrich Bez says unabashedly. But it's even more than that, says the German head of a very, very British car company. The sleek and potent DB9 is the lynchpin of Aston Martin's biggest change in our 89-year history, says Bez. That change is a serious determination to make some serious money. Ten years ago, Aston Martin was

GAYDON, U.K. — The new DB9 is “the coolest car on the planet,” Aston Martin CEO Ulrich Bez says unabashedly.

But it's even more than that, says the German head of a very, very British car company. The sleek and potent DB9 is the lynchpin of Aston Martin's “biggest change in our 89-year history,” says Bez.

That change is a serious determination to make some serious money.

Ten years ago, Aston Martin was at rock bottom when it produced but 43 vehicles.

It's now up to 2,000 units annually. The auto maker wants to hit 5,000 annually by 2005, drawing mainly from its flagship Vanquish, AM V-8 Vantage and the DB9.

Exclusivity is great, but “prestige without profit is pointless,” says Bez. Moreover, he says, “exclusivity is defined by visibility — you need to be visible otherwise exclusivity is pointless.”

That's why Aston Martin is on a product push as well as a stepped-up effort to open new dealer points, especially in the U.S. where there are currently 28, led by California with six, Florida with four and New Jersey and Texas with two each. The top U.S. dealer is Miller Motorcars in Greenwich, CT.

A new point in the Washington D.C. area is considered essential.

“If we're not selling in Washington it's not a case of being exclusive, it's just not being there,” says Bez. “Dealer profitability is a must. “Dealers are our partners, not just our representatives.”

The debutant DB9 will sell for 5-10% above the current DB7 Vantage which starts at $145,000.

Bez is confident there are enough people who will spend that much on a car, although Rolls Royce, Bentley and DaimlerChrysler AG's Maybach ultra luxury brands are finding — through sluggish sales of late — that there are limits to volume luxury spending.

“In America, there's a 10%-15% growth in people who are millionaires,” says Bez. “It doesn't mean they'll all buy cars, but it doesn't mean they won't.

“The assumption is there might not be enough room in the marketplace (for more luxury vehicles). In fact, there might not be enough product that belongs there.”

The hand-crafted DB9 is powered by a 6L V-12 engine producing 450 hp and a top speed of 186 mph.

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