Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd. recently made a move to return to glory, hoping to take aim at the top luxury car makers. After conducting business over the last nine months without a leader running the company, Aston Martin is bringing in Andy Palmer, former Nissan Motor Co. executive, as the new chief executive officer.
The 51-year-old Palmer will join the 101-year-old British sports-car maker after a brief transitional period, making the new Aston Martin CEO the latest senior level manager from Nissan to leave. After 23-years at Nissan, where the Japanese based carmaker sold over five million vehicles the previous year, Palmer, a Briton, will shift to a manufacturer that sold just over 4,000 cars to a niche market.
Aston Martin is best known for being the car of choice for the fictional secrete agent, James Bond. In 1964, when the franchise released its third movie titled Goldfinger, Sean Connery, playing 007, took the wheel of an Aston Martin DB5, the world took notice. Though the car maker fell away from the Bond franchise for a while, new models are the car of choice for the latest 007, Daniel Craig, and the original DB5 returned for the last movie, Skyfall.
Intelligence Automotive Asia managing director of research, Ashvin Chotai calls the move risky. Aston Martin is facing a lot of challenges. With competition from Ferrari and Maserati, both backed by Fiat, and Mercedes, whose parent company Daimler AG is in an agreement with Aston Martin to acquire 5 percent of the British carmaker, the hope is Palmer will turn the company around and bring big rewards to the company.
Palmer is filling a role at Aston Martin that was vacated by Ulrich Bez at the end of 2013. A German national, Benz stepped down from the position of CEO with Aston Martin after celebrating his 70th birthday. Palmer slides into the CEO chair after overseeing Nissan’s luxury brand, Infiniti, and held the position of chief planning officer for the Japanese carmaker.
Nissan appears to be taking the loss of Palmer to Aston Martin in stride, announcing that top Renault executive vice president, Philippe Klein, will move to fill the now vacant planning post position on September 15, making the loss less impactful to allow Nissan to return to normal.. Nissan spokesman, Chris Keefe, announced that the loss of Palmer will not impact Nissan in any way.
Renault-Nissan, partners since 1999, have seen four senior executives leave in the past 13 months. In April, Elon Musk brought Renault-Nissan communications chief Simon Sproule to Tesla Motors, and in July, Infinity chief Johan de Nysschen left Nissan to take over the Cadillac brand for General Motors. Renault lost Carlos Tavares to French rival carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen in August. With Palmer the fourth executive to leave,
What the British carmaker is now focused on is an overhaul of the hand-made cars technology. The agreement with Daimler AG offers in exchange for 5 percent of Aston Martin the British sports-car maker will receive electronics and engines for their automobiles. Adding Palmer is a move that Aston Martin hopes will return the 101-year-old company back to the top of the elite dream car list.
By Carl Auer