The Supercar Trio: Larry, Ben, & Mike

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of watching a number of the sessions at the Financial Times, Future of the Car, Event in London.  The overall theme of the event was: “What new skills, strategies, and strategic alliances does the car industry need to develop to future-proof businesses and ensure long-term success?” Overall, it was an outstanding and highly informative event and the list of participants was a who’s who of the automotive industry.  Out of the numerous interviews and fireside chats, it was the three sessions with Aston Martin’s Lawrence Stroll, Ferrari’s Benedetto Vigna, and McLaren’s Michael Leiters that really captured my interest.  Leiter’s discussed McLaren’s challenges and where they are headed, Vigna focused mostly on emerging technology and its implications for Ferrari, and Stroll talked about his accomplishments.  All three sessions were moderated expertly by the FT’s Peter Campbell.  The following are my key takeaways from each of the three sessions, in reverse order of the egos involved.

McLaren – Michael Leiters

Leiters came across as quite open, honest, thoughtful, and a little bit nervous.  He was transparent about McLaren’s recent challenges, where he wants to take the business, and how he sees the portfolio and powertrain technology evolving.   Leiters was clearly well prepared, well rehearsed, and remained very much on script during the 30 minute discussion.  It’s clear that he’s got a massive challenge, possible more than he originally bargained for, when he took the job.  He did make a point of saying that he has confidence in the business plan and it has strong shareholder support.  Leiters indicated that he is hoping to have the new capital structure in place in a month.  I hope he is right as it is a bit overdue at this point as the discussions have dragged on for at least 6 months now.  A couple of other interesting points:


  • Despite Leiters’ coming from Ferrari, he was very clear he had no intention on trying to copy Ferrari, very clear about the need to stick to McLaren’s DNA.
  • Leiters sees a future for ICE in the McLaren portfolio but believes the majority of the portfolio will likely be hybrid in the next 5 years. EV is further out (if ever). In fact, it was pretty clear that Leiter’s is not sold on EV as a powertrain solution for Supercars given both the weight and lack of emotion.
  • While not outright committing to doing a SUV, Leiters strongly hinted that it is highly likely that at a minimum, McLaren will introduce a 4 seater.
  • While stating that an IPO is not currently on the agenda, he did reveal his cards when he indicated that McLaren needs to become profitable and then we will see what happens.

Ferrari – Benedetto Vigna

Vigna is clearly a captain of industry and quite comfortable in the Ferrari CEO seat now.  While Ferrari might be his first CEO job, Vigna ran a massive highly complex semiconductor operating group prior to joining Ferrari so is used to managing complexity and large organizations.  He started the discussion by establishing that he is used to working in a much faster paced industry than the automotive world which was a rather interesting approach given the audience.  While he did say Ferrari was fast for a auto manufacturer, it was clearly implied that he would be step changing the rate at which Ferrari evolves and embraces change.  He did reference Tesla as a company that has come out of nowhere to completely disrupt the industry.  Vigna is a clear champion of using technology to create disruptions that can be leveraged.  He does believe that innovation is core to the Ferrari DNA and he will use emerging technologies to drive that forward.   A few quite interesting points:


  • Sustainability is highly important and Ferrari’s core values include the three P: People, Profit, and Planet.
  • In terms of powertrains, Ferrari is committed to a three prong approach. Ferrari will continue to manufacture ICE, build hybrids, and launch EV. What was very interesting is Ferrari seems now to be very committed to maintaining ICE for as long as possible while being much less excited about EV.  ICE wil be maintained until it socially untenable to do so.
  • Ferrari is first and foremost a luxury goods manufacturer. It must appeal to the emotional side of the customer; it must touch the soul and create an emotional connection.
  • Vigna is clear on the challenges on creating an EV that “touches the soul” while at the same time being quite certain that Ferrari has or will crack the code. His comments on an electric car not being silent was quite telling as to the approach Ferrari is taking. He did illude to the size of the challenge when referencing Enzo Ferrari’s statement that the engine is the soul of a car.  When pushed Vigna stated that in an electric car the soul is now the client as the intent is to stimulate the client’s emotions across the senses and not just via sound but also linear and lateral acceleration and the cockpit environment.  He also admitted that with current battery technology you can’t produce a car that is both a track monster and a long distance tourer.  Current battery technology just isn’t flexible enough.
  • One of the biggest challenges and decisions Vigna is facing is deciding what to produce in-house and what to outsource. Both EV batteries and software are key decision points.  On the software, a car has four main systems, Ferrari will always develop the performance software in house but comfort/climate control, infotainment and autonomous will be outsourced as they are not competitive points of difference.
  • On Ferrari’s future growth, Vigna made what I would call slightly strange statements around the 2022 volume growth being due to Ferrari’s stress testing their supply chain. He then refused to get caught stating any sort of volume cap but did emphasize that he expected most of the growth to come through value, i.e. mix and pricing.  He is looking to add more models at low volumes facilitating this with the Purosangue (and please don’t call it an SUV or he will ignore you) being a good example of the new approach. I would also take this as an indication that Ferrari will expand upon the Icona line given its price point and margins.  
  • Finally on Formula One, don’t expect a quick turn around on Ferrari’s fortunes. He is urging patience for the new team principle, Fred Vassuer.  Doubt he will get it.  Ferrari goes through team principles at the same rate Italy goes through Prime Ministers.

Aston Martin – Lawrence Stroll

If Leiters and Vigna were the poster kids for staying on script and disciplined in their response, Stroll was free flowing word salad. The first two discussed their companies’ accomplishments.  Stroll attributed everything to himself in a performance that would even make Trump blush. If someone in the Aston Martin PR department spent time preparing a script for Stroll, it was not time well spent. This was a completely different Stroll vs. the on-script discipled version from the FY 2022 Earnings Call.


A few things Stroll would like you to know:

  • He inherited a company that came off a colorful troubled IPO and that was executing a wholesale push model rather than a retail pull model.
  • Stroll has built some of the greatest luxury companies in his life. The Aston Martin he inherited claimed to be operating in a luxury environment but the manner in which the business was conducted couldn’t have been farther from the truth.  In addition, there was an inventory oversupply issue which he had to deal with as well.
  • My new vision is very clear, to build the world’s greatest ultra luxury high performance British brand.
  • The first thing Stroll did when taking over Aston Martin was to solidify the finances of the company. He has raised and invested approximately a billion and a half pounds, which he believes is quite a substantial number by anybody’s standards.
  • He has also brought in what he considers to be the best management in the world that understands how to do small volumes, high performance, and luxury
  • Stroll’s first order of business was to align demand with supply. It was a very costly venture, probably the costliest venture, and cost several 100 million GBP because of the inventory that was in the marketplace.
  • Stroll firmly believes that we should always be manufacturing significantly, or at least a few percent less, than demand. So, the first thing I implemented was we stopped making cars for over 9 months to work through the existing inventory.
  • When Stroll took over most of these cars were selling through discounts. He is adamant that there couldn’t be worse way to build a luxury company.  He then stated that to this day he has not made a car that doesn’t have an order.   
  • Stroll indicated that today there is no (new) inventory to the buy which has driven values of Aston Martin’s second hand cars up significantly. Per Stroll, if you want to buy a new one, you can’t do so without ordering it.
  • Stroll stated that in the next 24 months there will be eight new car launches, and that Aston Martin has never seen so much activity in the history of the company.
  • He has been working for three years to bring new technology performance from our Formula One team and integrated into the road car business.
  • Stroll would like you to know that Aston Martin has created a new sector in cars. Aston Martin has created something far superior to a Grand Tourer which for the first time in the automotive world is going to have this true high level of luxury and a true level of high performance. (it’s what they are calling Super Tourer, not to be confused with ABBA’s Super Trouper).
  • In Stroll’s words, “I’m taking a page out of my previous successful retail history. In order to share Aston Martin experience properly with customers, we will be opening our first flagship store in New York.  It will have the best address on Park Ave at 57th  It opens on the Tuesday before the Canadian Grand Prix. I think it’s the 13th of June.  That’s going to show the world how an Aston Martin customers experience is done and it’s nothing like any other automotive manufacturers has done.  It will really be something that’ll blow your mind. We’ll have one of those in New York, we’re going to have one of those here in London, we’ve actually signed the lease in Berkeley Square.  We’re going to have several in China we have one in Japan we’re going to open several throughout United States.  Beverly Hills and Florida are next on the list. I want to have a dozen of these around the world that give the true customer experience.  They will have designers in those stores seven days a week to help you with your car.  We’ll have designers living in those stores.  You know the extra options you put on the car are very profitable.”
  • Stroll would like everyone to know about the huge benefits that Aston Martin Lagonda, the road car company, is getting by having the Aston Martin Formula One team. In each race Aston Martin has the safety car and the medical car. Stroll claims, Aston Martin has 92% new interest in the brand since joining Formula 1 last year
  • Stroll stated that the Vantage F1, which is a car Aston Martin sells that is similar to the actual F1 safety car, 72% of those sales are due to Formula 1.
  • In terms of the mid engine, cars, Stroll stated that Aston Martin will have a very large mid engine program built around the Valhalla. The Valhalla will ultimately  come in many variants and there will be a number of mid engine specials.
  • Stroll thinks Aston Martin’s shares are significantly undervalued but blames it on the troubled past of the company which predates him.

And my favorite Q&A:


In answer to Peter Campbell’s question on inventory, “you said you’ve never made a card that you haven’t already pre sold.  And yet there were some of the books last year, about 900 more cars, in inventory than were planned,  what happened”


Stroll replied “with that no we didn’t 100 more if you’re referring to the DBX we had tremendous well two very big supply chain shortages which we mentioned during the course of the year one was one was leather one was bumpers and we had to deliver cars later in the year because we got the components later in the year those were sold orders or to dealers or the customers that we delivered later they were not there. The car should have been delivered earlier but were sold before they were delivered so there’s no, categorically there’s no car made today that aren’t pre sold at all. There’s no cars made today that were not ordered by a customer or by a dealer there’s no cars in our inventory there are cars in dealers inventory. Its just the two or three cars they have in the showroom.  These are the cars that they have for test drives and but unless they’ve ordered the car, or the customer ordered the car, that’s correct we have not made a car. Other than some press cars or things like that”


Word salad has never had a finer moment.


As a final note, Aston Martin’s shares are down 83% since Lawrence Stroll took over as Executive Chairman and its Gross Debt is up by over £200 million.  Regarding all the Aston Martin boutiques Stroll is planning on opening around the world, only one word comes to mind, Asprey (see: A Royal Mess – Asprey).  In terms of only building to order, in Aston Martin’s 2022 Full Year Financial Report, it was noted that in the timing of deliveries towards the end of Q4, total wholesale volumes were temporarily ahead of retail volumes at the end of 2022.  A check of inventory at a few US Aston Martin dealerships indicated that there are plenty of new Aston Martins for sale on dealer forecourts today.  For more details on Aston Martin’s performance: AML 2022 FY Results & AML Q1 2023 Results.



Watching the three interviews back to back was fascinating.  Leiters clearly has his hands full, knows it, and isn’t trying to hide it.  Vigna and Ferrari are flying high but are concerned that the emergence of EV could destabilize the cash machine they have created.  As for Stroll, there really isn’t anything to add that he hasn’t said himself.  Stroll couldn’t be more different from the other two if he tried.

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May 2023


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11 Thoughts on The Supercar Trio: Larry, Ben, & Mike
    Steve Hewett
    28 May 2023

    McLaren – Michael Leiters l tend to agree he has a lot on his plate, but he has a lot of experience so l’m hopeful he will succeed.

    I cannot comment on Ferrari not for me.

    Aston Martin – Lawrence Stroll Jeeezus what an absolute idiot.

    Down the pub with his mates boasting about his achievements (like Trump and his “women”) . But with the Financial Times !! . Up until reading your report l was optimistic they will turn Aston Martin around.

    Chris Cogan
    28 May 2023

    I’ve said it before, AM should endeavor to compete more with Pagani than high production exotics like Ferrari, Lamborghini, and McLaren.

      John (The Original.)
      28 May 2023

      For Aston Martin to move into the space that Pagani occupies would be to decimate the company. They’d go from reported 3,000 to 150 employees. I don’t really see that as an option, nor would it pay off their debts either.

      Plus the revenues wouldn’t be there for their shareholders either.

      Everybody seems to recognise what needs to be done at Aston Martin except Aston Martin and Stroll. Maybe someone will ask Stroll on the next shareholder call why Reichman is still with the company when his designs are the source of all of Aston’s troubles?

    John (The Original.)
    28 May 2023

    Leiters seems to have taken a very pure and honest approach at McLaren. You’d expect that of a company who’s filled with engineers. You might not always like what they tell you, but being engineers you know it’s the truth. Recognises there are challenges ahead, but recognition of them does put you ahead.

    Vigna has the luxury of knowing that Ferrari simply sell because they’re Ferrari. But to make claims that Ferrari is going to embrace new technologies shows how far they’ve come from the days of Enzo. Suggesting better aerodynamics to Enzo to get performance out of the Ferrari and he’d tell you to build a better engine. Even today you look at the carbon fibre tub that’s in the McLarens and Ferrari are still nowhere near that technology. They’re still welding panels together to make a chassis. Although the idea of subcontracting out the infotainment systems does sound a good one as I assume there’s a company that already works for multiple OEMs with their graphics. Better to lean on such specialists.

    And then there’s Stroll…

    Caught out with claiming he’s only building to order. Makes a lot of bold claims about himself and his importance to Aston Martin. Yet has absolutely failed to recognise the biggest problem Aston Martin has – Marek Reichman. If your designs aren’t selling isn’t it time to find a new designer?

    But, no, that’s not the problem, according to Stroll. The problem is that you don’t have an ultra luxury retail experience at some of the most expensive addresses that Aston can’t afford. There you’ll be able to talk with a designer who’s been caged up and kept prisoner to get just the right car for you. Sorry, I meant a designer living inside the store. Will these designers be able to fix the mess Reichman has made?

    Super Tourer. A term to add to your BS Bingo card. This for the DB12, which really is a DB11 Mark II. When Aston previously updated the DB6 they felt there wasn’t enough of an update to the car to call it by a new model name, and hence the DB6 Mark II came about. And since then DB12 isn’t anything more than an updated DB11 so it should have the same Mark II name. Alas, it also proves that Reichman can’t do Aston grills, or indeed Aston Martins. The dash is an improvement, centre console too, but you’re starting from such a low level and copying the Porsche Panamera it really doesn’t count in creativity stakes. Then you see the door cards and it’s like paper mache from a dozen different designers slapping their contribution on top of the previous. They don’t even connect well with the dash to continue any flow of an idea or thought. Like the many personalities vying for power inside Reichman never actually met.

    It seems that Stroll keeps wanting to shout the brand name and hope that people just buy because of the name. Just like the vane buy certain branded luxury goods. Not because they like them, but because it shouts a brand. I’m sure some will be convinced by this alone, but generally speaking in the automotive world you’re expected to deliver a product that works, not because of a name. The Neds in Scotland bought Burberry caps and wore them. In winter they had to have a Mera Peak coat from Berghaus, which frustrated my brother as he bought one to actually to hill climbing! I think he was relieved when it got stolen. But if the wrong people start buying your products just because of your brand name, you’ll lose all the other ones who bought because you’d created a good product. Stroll might find it easier to build up his brand by sacking Reichman and building a solid product that attracts the right type of customer.

    Lotus Emira has had a big problem – Lotus haven’t wanted journalists to test and review the 4 cylinder car. Not yet anyway. Why? Because they’re struggling to building the numbers they’ve got on back order as it is, they don’t want to add more to the waiting list as that will only frustrate those customers. Harry hasn’t managed to get one to drive, and then you realise you’ve not seen any reviews for that either. Stroll should look and see what Lotus has done, see how the right product runs out the showroom without any pushing. If he’s even half as smart as he thinks he is he should see what’s blindingly obvious right in front of him: Marek Reichman’s designs don’t sell. Another 7 designs to deliver in the next two years, and if he doesn’t rid the company of Reichman he won’t get through half of them.

    29 May 2023


    1. I sure hope Mclaren really pulls it out. I recently picked up a 720S and am blown away by what a phenomenal car it is… The definitely get building sports cars for drivers! But it would be interesting if instead of jumping on the EV/Hybrid bandwagon, they carved out a niche of the absolute best engineering in ICE sports cars… I guess too late, the Artura cat is out of the bag and from what I hear, not impressively.

    2. Ferrari can pull of the EV/Hybrid I think. Just a shame that their parts support for legacy models is so atrocious… Ferrari ICE cars will be stranded in a parts-availability hell?

    3. Lance, Get a clue. And get a talented #2 F1 driver to keep Alonso company.

    Hywel Rees
    29 May 2023

    Just to play Devil’s advocate for once:

    1. Stroll is an owner, not a manager (unlike Leiters and Vignal) – allowances should be made;
    2. Aston Martin has been owned by a succession of super-wealthy, egotistical types throughout its chequered history (Zborowski, Brown, Gauntlet, Ford – let’s not forget that Ford might still be described as a family business, despite its listing – and that’s before we consider the private owners who owned Aston Martin before the IPO);
    3. There’s something to be said for vision, however flawed. Stroll’s vision is certainly flawed but at least he has a vision of sorts. I’m not sure whether Mr Leiters’ managerial approach will save McLaren but who knows; and
    4. The DB12 is a step in the right direction (subject to actually driving one).

    I agree that Aston is sailing very, very close to the wind and also that Stroll could do with a lieutenant who is a lot more focused on delivery than grand strategy but Aston Martin has committed investors, they have a promising new model in the DB12 and, most importantly, for the first time since Stroll took over, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    The Devil’s advocate rests his case. The judge, however, still hopes for a more focussed, higher end, more bespoke line-up. The jury remains out for lunch.

    Thanks, again, for the blogs and the insight. Much appreciated.


      John (The Original.)
      30 May 2023

      I’m going to add my reply to the Devil’s advocate. As SSO put it, it’s commendable that Stroll wants to keep the lights on at Gaydon. Every post I’ve made about Aston is because I want to see the lights kept on. I don’t just want to see them survive, but thrive. Even if some people think I’m bashing Aston Martin, I’m not, but I do admit to bashing everything design hack Reichman does. He’s done too much damage to Aston Martin.

      Stroll an owner and not a manager. That’s very good observation. What you’re supposed to do is surround yourself with smart, competent people and get them to run all your business interests.

      Case proven.

      Owned by a succession of super-wealthy, egotistical types. Well, David Brown was asked by a friend if he couldn’t just buy one of his cars at cost prices instead of retail. Brown’s reply was he’d have to charge him more. He seen Aston as a way to go racing. Gauntlet I’ve never really heard any stories good or bad, other than his personal car was used in the Living Daylights. As for Ford, Aston was to be the pinnacle of PAG – Premier Automotive Group. The Vanquish being the crown jewel, and even Callum himself admitted to another worker the car would never earn back what was being spent on it. Ford put in better quality control and updated production practices. Everything they did for Aston Martin was positive until they sold it. I believe it was a Kuwaiti investment company who didn’t want to invest and grow Aston that took it over.

      Case proven, with the caveat that Ford did invest in the company and left it in a far better state.

      There’s something about vision, however flawed. Normally this is where you look to the CEO to set out the vision and direction of the company, and everybody below him works toward that vision. Steve Jobs set out Apple with a vision of being able to have a tablet as a computer to do what most people do with computers. He was also smart enough to realise you don’t let an opportunity pass and when he realised the iPhone was the better place to start ran with it. Even going back to the iPod with a vision of having thousands of songs in your pocket. Yes, MP3 players existed but you were lucky to have them store tens of songs or for the software to work a second time to update your track list.

      CEO is needed to lead the company. Theranos would have got nowhere if it weren’t for the vision being set out by Elizabeth Holmes.

      Step in Palmer and he led the company with his vision, and that included the Valkyrie, plus a barrage of other models. One thing Palmer did right was in the engineering of the cars. He got in experienced engineers from other companies, including Lotus, and they said to redesign the rear subframe and suspension on the DB11. An expensive process at that stage, but he did it because it improved the driving of the car. Where he failed, is the designer Reichman. Ultimately where Palmer failed was getting enough sales to sustain his plan and that ultimately comes down to design. Why? Because the engineering of the car was on point.

      Then we have the world’s second worst automotive CEO, Tobias Moers. A late entry by Thierry Bollore beat him to the prize, and Bollore has been successful in killing off Jaguar. TM’s vision was for Aston to increasingly buy in from Mercedes. Engines, infotainment, platforms. It would be a cheaper way to build an Aston, but is it the right way? Could Aston then ever compete with a thoroughbred company like Ferrari? No.

      Case proven, but I’d add that Aston’s problem is not identifying where those flaws are, either at the time or years down the line.

      The DB12 is a step in the right direction. I don’t think it could go backwards, but you never can tell when Reichman is designing. Nose is better than the DBS, but still it proves how awful that Reichman is at Aston noses, or anything else Aston related. Centre console and dash is better, but then isn’t it lifted off the Porsche Panamera? It’s a bit of a copy, and really that display should be further up the dash, closer to where the driver can see it. They’ve tried too hard to copy the Porsche and that straight edge across. And the doorcards are a mess; I can’t even describe how bad when it looks like the work of a dozen different designers all fighting for space. Proportions seem off, with things like the button centre of the steering wheel. And from the A pillar back there doesn’t seem to be any updates at all.

      Case Not Proven.

      The problem for me with Stroll is that he’s a man who likes to shout brand. From what I could tell with Michael Kors he and his Chinese partner bought the brand and then started branding all the items from China with that and somehow convinced America (was it through the TV show Sex in the City?) it was a quality brand worth buying and being associated with their name. That’s not enough in the automotive world, you’ve got to deliver on product too.

      If you look at Aston’s product, the fundamentals of a good platform, engine and engineering are all there. The problem lies in the design and the work by Marek Reichman. Friends who know my appreciation of Aston of the past ask me what happened to them? Why are they so ugly now? I have to explain that Reichman can’t design a good looking car.

      Stroll Guilty.

      This is where you have to judge Stroll guilty of not dealing with the biggest problem Aston has – Reichman’s designs don’t sell. Until he sacks Reichman he’s just going around chasing his tail. There comes a point where you have to ask if he continues to fail to see Reichman as the source of Aston’s problems is that incompetence?

    John (the other one)
    17 Jun 2023

    “Super Tourer” – ha, ha!! My (now elderly) diesel powered Mercedes estate is a super tourer: it will carry four people and their luggage in refined comfort, cruise the motorways of Europe at well in excess of the legal limit all day long, and do 600 miles between fill-ups. With bags of torque, it has quite enough useable performance for 99% of today’s road conditions, and is 100% reliable.

    As to making a new class of motor car, Ferrari has been making the sort of high performance GTs a DB12 will be for 70 years. Give over!


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