Buoyed by the recent announcement of a ‘technical partnership’ with Mercedes’ in-house tuning division AMG, Aston Martin appears keen to expand the scope of its products, and in both directions.
The most significant development is that the SUV project remains very much alive, despite there being no official news about the car since the launch of the controversial Lagonda SUV concept at the Geneva Motor Show in 2009.
At the recent launch of the new V12 Vantage S, Aston CEO and chairman Dr Ulrich Bez told me: “Have we got prototypes running around getting ready for production? No. Is it still on the radar? Absolutely, yes.”
It is believed that the tie-up with AMG has provided the impetus to get the SUV off the backburner and into the product pipeline as between them AMG and Mercedes would be in a position to offer an almost turn-key solution to Aston Martin, a fact not lost on Bez.
“If you look at how Porsche and Volkswagen worked together to produce two completely different cars, it would be possible to have a similar arrangement with Mercedes so long as our car was clearly and distinctly an Aston Martin.”
His words are chosen carefully and reflect a change in heart since the official position in 2009, when Lagonda was going to be relaunched as a brand in its own right. Since then Mercedes has suffered the demise of its own reincarnated Maybach name and it’s clear neither company is in any hurry to repeat the experiment. So the new SUV will be an Aston Martin Lagonda, with the Lagonda name used as a model rather than as a marque.
As for timings, it appears highly unlikely that either Mercedes or Aston Martin would choose to adapt an existing SUV but would prefer instead to spin the Aston off an all-new design that could be created from scratch with such a dual purpose in mind, just like the Porsche Cayenne and VW Touareg. This means the earliest an Aston Martin Lagonda would be in the showrooms would be 2017, the date the current Mercedes M-class is due to be replaced. It is also highly unlikely that the Aston Martin versions of the car would be built at its headquarters in the Midlands. All Mercedes SUVs are built in the US and India and it is probable that the Astons will be built in one or other of those locations too. There is nothing new about Astons being built abroad by people other than Aston Martin employees: until recently all Rapide saloons were built in Graz, Austria by Magna-Steyr.