Ten days ago, I posted an article on Aston Martin, Ferrari, and McLaren (Catching Up on Aston Martin, Ferrari, & McLaren). In the article I covered a number of the major challenges each has and is facing. By far the most challenged of the three is Aston Martin and their challenges extend over the entire scope of the business. In the last two days a couple of events have happened that contribute significantly to the ongoing saga.
Aston Martin Valkyrie
The Goodwood Festival of Speed is happening this week and per Aston Martin’s press release:
The highly anticipated Aston Martin Valkyrie is due to make its Goodwood Festival of Speed debut at the show. The crowd will be delighted to see – and hear – Valkyrie take on the famous Hillclimb past Goodwood House in the ‘Supercar’ batch. Accelerating from 0-60mph in under 2.5 seconds and powered by an almighty, naturally aspirated 6.5-litre V12 engine producing 1160bhp, Valkyrie – which will be driven by Aston Martin Cognizant Formula OneTM Team driver Lance Stroll on Saturday – is surely set to be the star of the show.
This might have been a bit of an over promise. On Thursday, the Valkyrie did complete a run on the Hillclimb but a close look at the video would seem to indicate that the active aero had all been turned off, the car was quite skittish, and not particularly quick. This is very much in line with information I have gathered that Aston Martin was having major difficulties getting the Valkyrie to run properly. If the situation was bad on Thursday, it got worse on Friday when the Valkyrie broke down on the hill resulting in a red flagging of the session. This was actually the second time it has already broken down at Goodwood. If there were any questions remaining on the validity of the reports of the massive problems Aston Martin is continuing to have with the Valkyrie’s development, this rather public failure should put them to rest.
As per Aston Martin’s press release stating that Lance Stroll will be driving the Valkyrie on Saturday, I understand this is currently being reviewed. While today’s Valkyrie failure was bad enough, the fallout should something happen with Lance Stroll behind the wheel would make it look like a minor incident. Lawrence Stoll (Aston Martin CEO) was supposed to be at Goodwood today (Friday) and cancelled at the last minute which I presume was related to knowing the issues the Valkyrie was having on Thursday and not wanting to have to answer questions on Friday in case what just happened, happened.
Aston Martin Board of Directors
Movements on most companies Board of Directors are the type of events insomniacs follow hoping it might provide a cure. However, the three new appointments to Aston Martin’s Board of Directors this week are a strong indication that all is not well at Gaydon and at least several large stakeholders are not happy. The three new Board Members are Amedeo Felisa, Franz Reiner, & Natalie Massenet. Of the three, the two that are quite interesting appointments are Amedeo Felisa & Franz Reiner. Reiner will be filling the Board seat that Daimler holds and replaces Stephen Unger.
Amedeo Felisa was the CEO of Ferrari S.p.A. from 2008 until June 2016 which crowned his 26-year career at the supercar company. His tenure as Ferrari CEO is generally considered a success as he was able to consistently deliver growth on both the top and bottom lines. It was Felisa’s tenure as CEO that set Ferrari up for its highly successful IPO in October 2015. During his tenure Ferrari also won its last constructors’ championship in F1. Adding Felisa to the Board puts a proven supercar company CEO in the Aston Martin Boardroom and Stroll now has a highly credible interim replacement for Tobias Moers (Aston Martin CEO) if that relationship continues to fray.
Franz Reiner is the CEO of Daimler Mobility AG, which is basically the financial arm of Daimler (parent company of Mercedes-Benz). Prior to this position Reiner was also a Member of the Management Board for the private and corporate customer business of Mercedes-Benz Bank. Net net, Reiner is one of Daimler’s top financial executives. He is an executive who understands the numbers inside and out, knows where to look, what questions to ask, and is highly unlikely to be fooled by any of the past games Aston played. Reiner is filling the Board seat that Daimler holds at Aston Martin as part of the strategic technology and licensing agreement Aston signed with Mercedes in Q3, 2020 (details: Aston Martin Q3 & Mercedes Deal). Based on the agreement, from a commercial partnership standpoint, the most logical Daimler/Mercedes executive to put on the Aston Martin board would be the CEO of Mercedes-AMG. Instead, Daimler has again opted to appoint a financial executive to the Aston board, and in this case an even more senior and experienced executive than the last appointment. My read on this is Daimler is increasingly concerned with Aston’s financial state and wants one of their best financial minds reviewing the results.
In conclusion, the problems with the Valkyrie are very real and have to be quite concerning for any of the remaining deposit holders. For Aston Martin to have risked putting the Valkyrie on the Goodwood Hillclimb course knowing that it was likely to break down points to either desperation or incompetence. At a minimum Aston has yet another self-inflected PR mess they now need to clean up along with more unwelcomed questions from the depositors on what happened and why. Two of the new Board appointments also point to growing concerns on the state of the business. Today’s fiasco with the Valkyrie does not reflect well on Tobias Moers and with Amedeo Felisa now on the Board, there is at least an interim alternative in house should the situation worsen, and Stroll feels he needs to make an immediate change. Daimler’s change on the person appointed to hold their Board seat just serves to reinforce the growing levels of concern. Add in the drama with the Nebula lawsuit over the Valkyrie, refusal to report retail car sales, and the situation just gets murkier.
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