Monday, June 23, 2014

Aston Martin - Heading for a s-l-o-w, lingering death?

Sad news from Gaydon, Warwickshire. It is necessary for me to write an obituary for Aston Martin, as we know it today. I hope I am wrong.

The success of Aston Martin, both the cars and the company, is down to one man - Ing. Dr. Ulrich Bez. If ever there was a round peg in a round hole, he was it!

In 2000, then Ford Motor Company CEO Jac Nasser, asked Dr. Bez to take over Aston Martin and try to save it. At one point in its history it went bankrupt, and later Ford poured millions into the company and never saw anything for it.
Ing. Dr. Ulrich Bez, Aston Martin headquarters, Gaydon, Warwickshire, UK
What Aston Martin needed was a visionary engineer, and Uli Bez is the full package. True, he can be a teensy bit tyrannical, and single-minded, but he literally DROVE the success of Aston Martin.

Aided by the great cars penned by Henrik Fisker, the DB9 and Vantage, Bez pushed, bullied, and bashed the tiny company into shape, and eventually succeeded in setting up its acquisition from Ford in 2007 with help from two like-minded investors from Kuwait and the USA.

Martine & Ulruch Bez, Geneva 2014
When I met my friend Ulrich Bez and his charming wife, Martine, in Geneva in March, he told me he would be leaving the company!

To say I was devastated is understatement. We have been friends for more than 20 years, and I know intimately how Dr. Bez guided, shaped and built the success of the tiny sports car company.

The fact is that the current investors are completely divided on how Aston Martin should be run, and literally forced Bez out. Is he happy to leave? Probably not, but at least he escapes the divisive atmosphere that now pervades the Boardroom. Currently there is NO CEO, the Italian and Arab investors can't decide on an appropriate candidate!

Aston Martin could be a headless chicken, if it wasn't for the stalwart, loyal and talented people employed by Bez, who are still there (trying to survive the craziness) doing their jobs, making great cars, and keeping some soul in the place.

Make no mistake. Ulrich Bez is a very, very unusual man. He is a gifted engineer (who worked for Porsche, BMW, Daewoo, Ford/Aston Martin), he is a canny production designer, a smart businessman, a skilled racing driver, an innovative thinker - who can, frustratingly at times, always be right!

Photo - European Car magazine

Every car he touched - the Porsche 959, the BMW Z1, the Daewoo range, and then the recent Aston Martins have been incredibly successful.

He has leveraged Aston Martin's wonderful history and past successes, embraced famous names like Stirling Moss,
Ulrich Bez and Sir Stirling Moss
and built a modern legacy of which today's Aston Martin can be truly proud.

Aston Martin owners all over the world can thank him for just being himself, and giving them cars they can enjoy owning and driving, and they too will be shocked by this news.

It is the end of an era - without doubt the most successful era in the company's 101 year history.

Under Ulrich Bez, Aston Martin has sold more than 50,000 cars in 13 years, over three times more than the company sold between 1913-2000!

Ulrich Bez is probably not happy to see me post this piece, for fear of helping to erode what he has built. However, I for one, appreciate the job he did at Aston Martin. It is the crowning glory on a distinguished career, and it's important to me that his achievements and contribution are recognized.

I want to see Aston Martin survive this hiccup and continue its great traditions. Let's all hope my forecast is premature!

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