Update on the Saga of Stroll’s Aston Martin

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.

Thoughts and comments? Please see the comments section below.

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July 2021

 

Recent Posts

9 Thoughts on Update on the Saga of Stroll’s Aston Martin
    Angus St Amper
    18 Jul 2021
     8:24pm

    Dear Sir

    You appear to have pulled your punch’s with regard to the Third Director appointed to the AML Board ?

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    Robin Kanagasabay
    10 Jul 2021
     1:04pm

    When they said the Valkyrie was to be the star of the show, perhaps they meant in the sense that everyone would be taking about it…

    Yes, it smacks either of desperation or incompetence (or a mixture of the two.) It was notable that there was an almost complete absence of commentary about on the livestream, perhaps they had the decency not to make a bad situation worse. Very sad to see an iconic British brand flounder like this but it sounds like BOD are taking necessary steps to steady the helm.

    Thanks as always for the insight SSO.

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    Chris Cogan
    9 Jul 2021
     6:53pm

    Wow, the look on Stroll’s face says it all. I know that look and the feelings behind it are not good.

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    John Coventry (Bluebottle)
    9 Jul 2021
     9:50pm

    Nothing new then. I remember when the all-singing, all-dancing Lagonda wedge was presented to the press – and wouldn’t start!

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    Christian Lorenzen
    10 Jul 2021
     8:51am

    Well written blog. Looking at AML’s publicity work in recent months it clearly lacks direction. They are abandoning their loyal customer base in search for a younger audience, showing rappers sitting in their cars in front of the HQ in Gaydon. Appointing Natalie Massenet to the Board might help steer the company back in the direction of a more understated luxury brand rather than this nouveau riche image it is trying (and failing) to portray at the moment. It all seems a bit desperate.

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    Paul Kithoray
    13 Jul 2021
     7:15am

    Great insight and I greatly admire your thought provoking analysis on the sector but I think you are being slightly uncharitable towards Aston Martin and the Valkyrie. Whilst clearly they had some running issues they resolved these by the weekend, even posting their shakedown runs on the public road on social media.
    Then, on the weekend, both Adrian Newey and Tobias Moers took it up the hill, hardly a demonstration of both wishing to distance themselves from the project.
    Yes, I’m sure the development of this car has been painful, but it was ever thus with such extreme cars (eg Veyron) and this is a car that should be celebrated when it finally arrives.

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    John
    15 Jul 2021
     10:18pm

    And apparently they were also showing off the AMG Mercedes Valhalla at Goodwood too.

    Just today videos have been released showing a static Valhalla, I recommend the Carfection video with Henry Catchpole if you’re interested. Gone is the V6, as Moers claimed it wasn’t Euro-7 compliant (yet others say it was), replaced with a crate engine from AMG. It’s a good engine, probably, but would you want your Ferrari using anything other than a Ferrari engine?

    Looks are improved over the concept, but it’s still a format that isn’t suited to Aston. A Le Mans prototype shape which will need some contortion to get in that even McLaren adjusted their chassis on the 720s to allow easier access. The interior wasn’t being shown, an area that Reichman has notoriety in making a right mess of.

    I’d previously heard it was £1.5 million for the Valhalla, but now they’re stating it’s in the region of £700,000. The rival people are quoting is the Ferrari SF90, a car about half the price. For full disclosure, I’ve heard others saying that the original price was going to be £1,000,000 and this is just a £300,000 reduction. However you look at it, it’s a huge slice off the price. Numbers are no longer capped, but they only expect to sell about a thousand over two years.

    You comments on if Tobias Moers is going to be replaced is a good question. I’d have said he was the worst automotive CEO there is currently, but a late entry by Thierry Bollore beats him, surprisingly. Moers needs to sack Reichman, but Bollore not only managed to lose the highly talented Julian Thompson (Lotus Elise, and Land Rover LRX concept that all Range Rovers now follow), but also threw all Jaguar workers under the bus by killing off all of their products! If you do a search for “Gerald Ratner” you’ll see what he did to his company with just one comment. Bollore has done that with Jaguar. Unbelievable incompetence.

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