Like the Mazda and Volvo future threads, making one for AM
Big change coming:
Andy Palmer leaves Renault-Nissan to serve as CEO of Aston Martin
Andrew Palmer is the New CEO of Aston Martin
Gaydon, UK; 2nd September 2014: Aston Martin Lagonda ("Aston Martin") is pleased to announce that Aston Martin will appoint Andrew Palmer as its new Chief Executive Officer to lead the company in its next phase of technology and product creation. Dr Palmer, 51, will join Aston Martin from Nissan Motor Corporation where he served as Chief Planning Officer. Palmer will assume operational responsibility for all aspects of the business.
'Andy' Palmer CMG is a British-born chartered engineer, chartered manager and businessman with 35 years of automotive industry experience. Palmer was Chief Planning Officer, Executive Vice President and Member of the Executive Committee of Nissan Motor Company reporting directly to the President and CEO. His responsibilities included Corporate and Product Planning, Program Management, Electric Vehicles, Global Marketing Communications, Global Sales and IS/IT. Palmer also served as Chairman of Infiniti.
Palmer's duties at Aston Martin will commence after he completes a transition period from his current employer.
Palmer started his professional career in 1979 aged 16, as an apprentice at Automotive Products Limited (UK). In 1986 he joined Austin Rover to eventually become Transmissions Chief Engineer of Rover Group. Palmer joined Nissan in 1991 and was based in Japan for the past 13 years.
In 2012, Palmer was named the automotive industry's most influential British executive by Auto Express, and in 2013, the world's third most influential Chief Marketing Officer (after Apple and Samsung CMO's) by the CMO Influence Study, conducted by marketing firm Appinions for Forbes magazine. Furthermore, among Interbrand's Best Global Green Brands 2013, Nissan claimed the fifth position with Palmer being credited with "elevating marketing to a science." Palmer was appointed Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to the British automotive industry.
A statement from the shareholder board of Aston Martin said, "We're delighted that Andy will join us as our new CEO at this important time at Aston Martin. Andy's wealth of experience on the global automotive stage in marketing and sales, engineering and technology, and luxury and brand management will be instrumental in taking Aston Martin forward through its most significant and ambitious period of investment to date."
Aston CEO on Future Product: Downsizing Bad, Manuals Good, V-12s Even Better
These are fascinating times at Aston Martin, with the recent arrivals of both a new boss—former Nissan product supremo Andy Palmer—and also a fat stack of development cash.
The latter leads us to ask the former the obvious question of, “How are you planning to spend that?” The company is certainly keeping busy with the launch of low-volume specials (like the Vulcan and Vantage GT3 at the Geneva show), but it’s the company’s medium-term future we’re most interested in, as it now seems to have one. We’ve already reported on Palmer’s desire to turn the electric DBX into reality, but now it’s time for a condensed take on some of his other plans for the company.
First, don’t expect new products too quickly. Although the technical collaboration with Mercedes was announced more than a year ago, we’re still another two years away from seeing an Aston powered by AMG’s new twin-turbocharged V-8. That car will be the new Vantage, but according to Palmer it will actually be the second new-era Aston to be launched.
The first will be the replacement for the existing DB9, which we can expect to see in about 18 months. This will use the same design language that we’ve seen on the DB10 shown above—it’s the special model made for the next James Bond movie, SPECTRE—and the billionaire track toy Vulcan. And the fact it will come before the new AMG engine is welcome confirmation that it will be sticking with a V-12 engine. Hooray!
“One of the reasons for having an electric car is to allow us to continue with the V-12 for longer,” says Palmer. “Of course, we’ve got to make it emissions compliant, and the current V-12 has to be completely renewed. But yes, we have a twelve-cylinder engine in our future. Our customers expect that.”
The twelve definitely won’t be a Mercedes engine—the technical alliance includes only the V-8 for now—so although Palmer described it as “fundamentally new,” we expect it will be a heavy development of the existing 5.9-liter unit and that it will stick with natural aspiration.
The new models also will feature the same construction techniques that Aston has been using since 2003, meaning an aluminum structure featuring both bonded and die-cast aluminum with bodywork made from aluminum. And although the company has often been criticized for the age of its “VH” architecture, Palmer is an unapologetic fan of it. “That platform was definitely far ahead of its time,” he says. “It should have been described as a modular architecture, like [VW’s] MQB or one of the other systems big manufacturers have adopted. We’re always making excuses about it being an old platform, but if you were to compare the original VH platform to today’s there’s an enormous transformation. And it’s a great way to build cars in the volumes that we do.”
And there’s no chance that the next generation of Astons are going to be overwhelmed with technology. The partnership with Daimler gives the company access to Mercedes’s advanced electronic systems, including active-safety modules and potentially (once fully developed) autonomous driving. But Palmer says the cars themselves will remain driver-focused. And yes, that does mean manual gearboxes, even with the forthcoming AMG V-8 engine (which Mercedes doesn’t offer with a clutch pedal).
“I would love to be the last car manufacturer providing stick shifts in the U.S.,” he said. “That’s my hope, we will keep the faith. And even as the industry moves to twin-clutch transmissions, at the heart of each of those you still have a manual transmission. It’s only a matter of breaking it into its parts, and that’s where I started my career, as a transmission engineer.”
There’s plenty of other stuff, too. Palmer says he hopes to turn Lagonda into a sedan sub-brand with more than one product—“I see it as a serious long-term competitor to Rolls-Royce”—and that his long-term plan is to get Aston to a production volume of 7000 cars per year, nearly double from the current 4000. And he’s determined to resist downsized engines and hybrids for as long as possible. “There’s an inevitability to having a hybrid simply because the car itself has to meet the [economy] standards as well as the total fleet. You’ve got to get every car on that line. Eventually that means some kind of hybridization, [and] there’s an inevitability to downsizing, too. And although I’d say a six-cylinder engine is possible—Aston has done them before—I’m not planning anything smaller than a V-8 at the moment. It’s V-8 and V-12 as far as I’m concerned.”