Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Rapide--"the only four-door sports car in the world," according to the CEO of the company that's now flying solo since it was sold by Ford to a Kuwaiti-funded investment group three years ago.
CEO Dr. Ulrich Bez--the man whose cell phone rings to the James Bond theme--is unabashedly confident that the British luxury brand's new four-door is without peer. And even in a world economy still in intensive care, Aston Martin is planning a healthy future for the Rapide.
Reality has trimmed expectations for sales of the sexy sports sedan, though. "If you had asked me in 2007, I would have said 3000 to 4000 cars," for annual sales volume, Bez says. "Today, it would take 2000 to 3000 cars." Still, the Rapide is a game-changer for the Aston brand: Bez estimates in 2010, the company will sell a total of 6000 cars, of which the Rapide will account for one-third.
It's a magnitude shift that required an outside partner to build the Rapide outside of its ancestral home in Gaydon, England. The Rapide will be built in Graz, Austria, by Magna Steyr--an offshoot of the company that bid unsuccessfully for Opel, and now builds small-batch products like the Mercedes-Benz G-Class for automakers far and wide.