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Aston Martin welcomes Italian co-ownership, plans model expansion

Now 2 large investment firms control Aston Martin: one Italian, the other Kuwaiti. About $800 million will be earmarked for new models.

By Clifford Atiyeh Dec 7, 2012 3:42PM
Aston Martin has welcomed a new shareholder that has promised to pump $800 million into the company over the next five years, ending several weeks of speculation that the entire company would be sold.

Italian investment firm Investindustrial purchased a 37.5 percent stake in Aston Martin for $241 million. Investindustrial, which manages $4 billion across several companies, will run Aston Martin alongside Kuwaiti investment firm Investment Dar, which had been trying to reduce its reportedly 64 percent majority share after defaulting on a bond and accumulating billions in debt.

Aston Martin did not say what percentage Investment Dar still held, but did say it was still a majority shareholder. According to The New York Times, an all-out sale of Aston Martin -- even a 40 percent stake -- was declined since it would have involved a complicated deal to switch the automaker's $482 million bond debt to the new owner. Instead, Aston Martin simply accepted a new shareholder, similar to how Fiat began its 35 percent stake in Chrysler in 2009. Investindustrial had owned Ducati before selling it to Audi earlier this year for $1.1 billion. Mahindra, an Indian automaker that was reportedly in discussions to buy the entire company, was declined.

What does this mean if you're not a banker?

Aston will be "expanding the model range and strengthening the dealership network," according to a statement from Investindustrial. Currently, Aston's model range is pinned on one chassis that dates back to its Ford-owned era in 2003; beautiful as they are, the cars all look similar to the point of being indistinguishable. Aston Martin is also the only luxury brand that isn't owned by a larger automaker, such as Bentley by Volkswagen and Rolls-Royce by BMW. As such, it is more susceptible to drops in sales and lacks a bigger partner to pull off engineering and technical advances.

In an interview with Top Gear magazine, Aston Martin CEO Ulrich Bez said that a partner wasn't necessary for the company's survival. "We are not necessarily the first to market with some technologies, because that costs a lot of money," Bez said. "But, in my opinion, it's not important to be the first in the luxury sector, it's important to be the best."

Some of Aston Martin's technology could use an overhaul -- the Garmin navigation, old Volvo radio controls and the wonky glass key ignition -- not to mention some newer engines that wouldn't be eclipsed in power by competitors.

One thing guaranteed not to change: the timeless, passionate style and prestige of being a hand-built British beauty.

"As long as we make sports cars, they will look like Aston Martins," Bez said.

[Source: Aston Martin]
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