Aston Martin’s planned seven new models are being created with a view to beyond traditional market segments, and are focused instead on new-age ‘customer clusters’ that the brand believes will see it reach a much wider audience.
The iconic British brand, helmed by former Nissan executive Andy Palmer since late 2014, released the first of these new cars, the DB11, at the recent Geneva motor show. It aims to follow that up with yearly launches of new models until the seven-strong line-up is established.
Speaking exclusively to CarAdvice at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix last week, Palmer, the former second-in-charge of Nissan and Infiniti brands, said that part of the transformation of 103-year-old Aston Martin with this ‘second century’ plan is to be present where customer clusters are, rather than in traditional automotive segments.
“The industry historically does market segmentation… typically what you will see is the A-segment, B-segment, C-segment, etc,” he said.
“In the C-segment you have a hatchback and then someone says why don’t we do a cabriolet, and a crossover, and everyone is looking for space within those segments, and it’s because the industry is driven by volume. Everybody is looking to push product concepts on people. Sometimes it’s successful [and] sometimes it’s not.”
“The approach from my previous company I tried to adopt, and I certainly embedded within Aston, is one of ‘customer pull’. When you do customer pull you don’t look at segments, you look at customer clusters.
“The example is, it’s quite possible that a wealthy young American female who has made a success of her life, is just as likely to be driving a Mini as driving an Aston Martin crossover. Why? Because she’s not constrained by money, and she’s looking for something that represents her lifestyle.
“The classical segmentation doesn’t work, because she is in the [C] segment, so how can you assume that she can be sitting in the ultra luxury segment? So it doesn’t work, so we now look at the HLS (high luxury segment), from the point of view of the customer, from an emotional attachment to the brand, and you cluster them together.”
Palmer believes that as part of this new vision for the company’s future models, certain cars that were previously too closely related will need to be pushed further apart.
“When you cluster them together you can see where DB9 sits and Vantage sits and Vanquish and you overlay them again and say, where do you want to sit? Because when you look at that, you see that Vantage and DB9 sit too close together, and you want to pull them apart.”
Part of the issue in the past has been the lack of resources, with Aston having to rely on the same platform for all its models, creating a bottleneck for model development. An issue that is not as relevant today.
Part of the plan for understanding the customer for future Aston Martin models is to assign proxy customers to each car, so that all decisions for the models are based on the needs and wants of that particular customer.
“The seven cars that we are developing, we put them into customer clusters and for each one of those clusters right in the middle we nominated a proxy customer.
"That proxy customer for DB11 is a guy called Philippe. For the next Vantage it’s a guy called Marcus. And for the DBX, it’s a lady called Charlotte - and Charlotte today is driving a Mini.
“That doesn’t say that I want to sell DBX only to women and DB11 only to men, but what it does say is that I have a proxy customer for that product that is representative of that cluster that could be male or female, and that every time that I have to make a difficult decision about size versus beauty, for example - rather than my team saying what would the CEO want, because I am not very representative of an American female, they say what would Charlotte want?
"Because they know Charlotte intrinsically very well now, and it makes the plan easier.”
Ultimately though, the company plans to keep its current customers more than satisfied with a new generation of proper Aston Martin cars, while it develops models such as the DBX for its potential flock of new customers.
“Are we trying to get to a younger and female audience? For some of the cars the answer is yes, but for some of the cars we are chasing a classical Aston Martin customer. Frankly, Richard, who’s the proxy for the next-gen Vanquish, is a very, very typical traditional Aston Martin customer.
"On the other hand, if you think about AMRB001… we don’t have one of those today, that’s a completely new customer.”
The Aston Martin DB11 will arrive in Australia towards the end of this year, with the next-generation Vantage set to make its appearance in 2017.