Aston Martin unveiled a crossover coupe as the British sports car maker seeks to return to profit by appealing to women and buyers in emerging markets. The all-wheel-drive DBX concept, which debuted Tuesday at the Geneva International Motor Show, is equipped with electric motors and sports large wheels, narrow headlights and a gaping grille. While the car’s not ready for sale, Aston Martin plans to add a crossover in a departure from its lineup of sports coupes like the Vanquish.
“The DBX Concept is more than a thought starter for us and for our customers,” Chief Executive Officer Andy Palmer said. “We will, in due course, be entering a car into the new DBX space.”
Aston Martin’s move is part of a surge in elite crossovers, as high-end brands respond to demand from wealthy consumers in China and other emerging markets, where sports cars are less popular. Bentley will present the Bentayga later this year, which the British marque boasts will be the world’s most luxurious and expensive SUV. Maserati is finalising the Levante, and Jaguar will start selling its first crossover, the F-Pace, in 2016. They’re all following Porsche, which now sells more SUVs than pure sports cars.
The expansion is also key for Aston Martin, which aims to boost sales to 7,000 vehicles a year by 2021 from about 4,000 now. But Palmer said the company doesn’t want more volume than that in order to protect its exclusivity.
Aston Martin is one of the few global luxury-auto brands that’s not part of a larger group. Porsche, Bentley and Lamborghini are all part of Volkswagen AG, while BMW AG makes Rolls-Royce cars and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV owns Maserati. Aston Martin is controlled by Italian private-equity firm Investindustrial, with Kuwaiti companies Investment Dar and Adeem Investment Co. as its other main shareholders. Palmer said the company’s shareholding structure is stable and that the company intends to remain independent.
The U.K. carmaker’s strategy is focused on overhauling technology that underpins its hand-made vehicles. Daimler AG, whose Mercedes-Benz unit is the world’s third-biggest manufacturer of luxury vehicles, has an agreement to acquire a 5% stake in Aston Martin in exchange for providing the sports-car producer with components such as engines and automotive electronics.
“We’re a small company and we can’t afford all that technology needed today in the industry,” said Palmer in an interview. “With Daimler, we have a partner and a shareholder that doesn’t want to buy us. This is great.”
In addition to the DBX, Aston Martin presented the Vulcan racing car in Geneva. It plans to make 24 units of the model and owners will be required to take part in an “extensive and detailed” training program before driving the Vulcan on their own.