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Aston Martin chases Versace chic clique

From Wilmslow in Cheshire to San Juan Capistrano, southern California, via Munich and Paris, Aston Martin is preparing an exclusive global retail network in anticipation of annual production volumes reaching 5000 cars by 2005.

In July a new central Paris dealership will open on Rue du President Roosevelt, a short distance from the Champs Elysses, sharing lucrative territory with Versace, Gucci and Armani. Pale ivory marble, or travertine, and aluminium combine in Aston Martin's new minimalist gallery look, a theme which will characterise more than 130 outlets world-wide by the end of 2004.

The retailing experience, claims Dr Ulrich Bez, chief executive of Aston Martin Lagonda, will be more akin to the stylish sales environments of exclusive premium goods retailers. Henrik Fisker, the company's head of design, says Aston Martin was determined to sustain an image of “being above luxury, a byword for prestige, being almost unattainable”.

This year stringently-vetted retailers will open operations in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Dubai as the rate of climb reaches 110 dealerships from 65 at the beginning of last year. In the US recruits include Champ Car motor racing team owner Bobby Rahal in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania and automotive magnate Roger Penske near Los Angeles. Their appointment is part of a plan to expand Aston Martin's US presence to 42 sites within two years.

Premium UK retail group Pendragon, which accounts for a majority of the UK's annual 400 Aston Martin sales have consolidated its role with the brand. Its outlets range from the solus London Mayfair and Wilmslow locations, which pioneered the new style of premises, to dealerships in Munich and Frankfurt, plus San Juan Capistrano and a new operation in Beverley Hills, Hollywood, due to open this summer.

After returning an operating profit of £1m last year Bez maintained that senior management from Ford, his equivalent of a merchant bank, had expressed confidence in his business plan, despite the departure of the Premier Automotive Group's president Wolfgang Reitzle. He says: “We will deliver month by month and exceed our promises. But in Ford's overall budget we would still come after the comma.”

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