In the last 18 months I have mentioned several times on this blog that Aston Martin might want to come into F1 with Mercedes V6 engines, badged as Aston-Martins. This may seem a radical idea, but it fits in entirely with the way that the automotive industry is now working, with car manufacturers sharing all manner of different technologies. Aston Martin has been controlled since the end of 2012 by the Italian private equity firm InvestIndustrial, which is run by businessman Andrea Bonomi. He was well aware of the potential value in automotive brands, as he is involved with the development of the planned Ferrari theme park in Spain. InvestIndustrial was originally founded by the Bonomi and Benetton families and has enjoyed much success with its investments.
I heard last year that there was a plan for an Aston Martin F1 project, which would have involved none other than Flavio Briatore, the disgraced former team principal of the Renault F1 team, who was drummed out of the sport after the Singapore scandal in 2009. The word is that the investors decided they wanted more of a James Bond image and Briatore did not fit in at all. However, it seems that InvestIndustrial concluded that in order to achieve its strategic goals of doubling Aston Martin sales to 7,500 by 2018, it realised that it needed to do more than upgrade the company’s ageing products, notably the DB9 and the Vantage, and add new ideas, notably an SUV to compete with products from Porsche and Bentley. In order to achieve this the strategy was agreed to offer Mercedes Benz a five percent share in the business, in exchange for automotive technology.
In the autumn of 2014 InvestIndustria announced that Andy Palmer would become the CEO of Aston Martin and that Simon Sproule, the vice president of communications at Tesla Motors, would become the company’s chief marketing officer. Palmer and Sproule had previously worked together at Nissan, where they cooked up the idea of promoting the Infiniti brand by sponsoring Red Bull Racing. This was controversial because it meant that Infiniti got much of the publicity, while Renault did not get the recognition it deserved for the F1 engines.
The latest rumours link Aston Martin to a supply of badged Mercedes engines for Red Bull Racing, which would mate Red Bull chassis technology with Mercedes engines and act as a way to market Aston Martin across the globe. A month ago in the JSBM newsletter I wrote that “rumours have also suggested that the private equity company InvestIndustrial, which owns Aston Martin, is trying to put together a deal to have an Aston Martin-branded chassis, powered with a rebadged Mercedes engine.”