Ford announced the sell-off of its crown jewels in March, to a consortium of Dubai investment companies headed by Prodrive boss David Richards, in a deal valuing Aston at £479 million.
But what exactly do you do with your new purchase, when you’ve just bought one of the world’s most famous car brands? A business that has already expanded sales tenfold in the past decade, launched more models than ever before and polished its image with some 007 cool. What can the new owners possibly hope to add?
Well, according to Richards, the new chairman, one area for immediate development is extra ways ‘to leverage the brand’. Read merchandise. Expect pricey jackets, branded watches, pens and cufflinks. He even mentions Ferrari World, the motorsport theme park that opens in Abu Dhabi next year that has split opinion among the tifosi.
Such shameless marketing is clearly a money-spinner, but isn’t it damaging in the long run?
Richards acknowledges the perils of squeezing a brand too hard. He admits there is a tipping point between a brand being well promoted and one being sucked dry and he hopes to strike the right balance.
You get the impression that he believes Ferrari has gone too far and its merchandise too ubiquitous. “Ferrari may soon make more money from its other interests than it does from its cars,” he muses. “This may be good for shareholders but I’m not sure it’s altogether right”.
Rather than the usual baseball caps and jackets, Richards assures us that Aston Martin goods will be tasteful and understated – “like the cars”.
Only time will tell. But in the meantime, look out for racing-green Babygros in a shop near you soon.