Aston Martin, Daimler Consider Partnership Yet Again

Yeah, we've heard that one before.

According to Bloomberg, both Aston Martin and Daimler AG – Mercedes-Benz’s parent company – are in talks to establish a partership and collaboration between the two automakers.

Sound familiar? It’s because we’ve heard about this on-again, off-again corporate flirtation for nearly five years.

Rumors that Aston Martin was looking to revive the Lagonda brand first emerged almost five years ago. At the time, the brand had been in hibernation since 1990 (or 1993/4, if you count a custom Virage sedan or a bloated concept executed under Ford’s auspices). Reports suggested the revived Lagonda would again be a large sedan, but Aston was aiming to work with Daimler to build the new Lagonda atop the platform of the next-generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class. That didn’t come to fruition, nor did early estimates suggesting both cars would be on the market by 2012.

Further, Investment DAR – the Kuwaiti investment firm that owned nearly two-thirds of Aston Martin – was looking to sell off its stake in the British sports car manufacturer. At the time, Daimler was reportedly interested in buying much of DAR’s stake. That didn’t happen, but DAR did sell off roughly half of its say in the company to an Italian firm in late 2012.

Aston Martin says its new Lagonda concept will debut at the Geneva Motor Show. It certainly did, but the finished product wasn’t quite what we’d expected. Spun as a “four-seat international tourer,” the new Lagonda was not a sedan, but a large crossover/ sport-utility built upon the Mercedes-Benz GL platform.

Unfortunately, its – shall we say controversial? – styling left a little to be desired, and both critical and public response wasn’t exactly as warm as Aston would have hoped.

The Financial Times reported Aston Martin and Daimler were again eying a partnership – but this time, Aston would be charged with building a new ultra-luxury sedan for the troubled Maybach brand. One German newspaper went so far as to suggest that new Maybach could be developed entirely by Aston Martin. Such a vehicle could have debuted by the 2011 Frankfurt show, but it didn’t – and in 2012, Daimler announced it was again putting the Maybach brand on ice.

Two years after showing the concept in Geneva, Aston’s executives sit down with Autocar to talk Lagonda. Aston CEO Ulrich Bez indicated Aston was still working to revive the Lagonda brand, although it wouldn’t be a one-trick pony – instead, the brand would have multiple models. (Fun fact: Bez also noted the Lagonda relaunch would cost a fraction of what Daimler spent to get Maybach up and running. Salt, meet wound.)

As for the Lagonda’s design: chief designer Marek Reichman claimed his team and company were “not deterred” by negative reaction. According to Reichman, the funky crossover was a “reaction vehicle,” and pointed out “people didn’t say Lagonda shouldn’t exist, they just said a Lagonda shouldn’t look like that.”

Autocar again reports Aston is working to revive Lagonda and push that crossover into production, as Aston believes such a vehicle is key for making inroads in several markets, including China and Russia. The design had allegedly been revised since its first showing in 2009, but despite claims Aston was nearly ready to show the updated Lagonda, we never saw it.

In July, reports indicated the Lagonda would still ride atop the Mercedes-Benz GL platform, but its styling would be extensively revised. 6.0L V-12 could still be the headline engine, but Aston hinted that other powertrain – including downsized gasoline or diesel engines – could also join the lineup.

In May, we report Daimler is still interested in taking on a small stake in Aston Martin – five percent or so. That would be enough to allow Aston access to engines and the GL’s platform as previously reported, but also the ability to use Mercedes’ rear-drive and sports car architectures for future product. Georg Kacher says a complete buy-out is unlikely, but could happen by 2020 “if only to keep competitors at bay.” Volkswagen AG, we’re looking at you.

Is that five-percent stake what Aston and Daimler are presently discussing? Neither side will say, although Daimler has officially confirmed the two are in negotiations. A Daimler spokeswoman told Bloomberg “while both sides know and respect each other very much, no decisions have been made.”

So, as we’ve said for the past five years: stay tuned.

Source: Bloomberg

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