A day inside life of Aston Martin boss Andy Palmer

Saturday, January 14th, 2017 - autos, cars, motoring, news

Source : A day inside life of Aston Martin boss Andy Palmer

Andy Palmer can be relishing his role as Aston Martin CEO. We shadow him for a day at the office

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After nine months inside job, Aston Martin’s brand new CEO, Andy Palmer, can be still doing up for lost time. There was much joy as well as relief when the Stratford-born 52-year-old left a top Nissan post late last year to take charge at Gaydon, although, as every Aston watcher knew, the challenges were massive.

Aston had been leaderless for a year. Its range was overdue for renewal, its global markets needed reorganisation, its core technology was changing as well as the needs of its shareholders – Italian, Kuwaiti as well as German – needed corralling into one particular set of objectives. Could one man do all which?

Palmer made a flying start. He charmed as well as calmed the troops at Gaydon. On gardening leave by Nissan, he had part-invented what soon became Aston’s ‘Second Century Plan’. (“I wasn’t working,” he says, “although I was thinking.”) He schmoozed suppliers as well as Aston owners, as well as all the while his inquisitive eye was looking into neglected corners as well as watching markets, even those where you count Aston sales on the fingers of one hand.

I watched all This particular, wondering what the brand new CEO was definitely like. He was dynamic, although could he keep the item up? would likely the brand new philosophy stick? A few months ago I asked if I could hang out with Palmer for a day, to see things by the sharp end. He liked the idea, which can be why early one Wednesday last month I was sitting inside kitchen of his house in Northants, about 40 minutes’ drive by the office.

6.30am

Palmer as well as his wife, Hitomi, are ready for breakfast when I arrive. Hitomi can be a superb 
cook as well as we tuck into a delicious full English 
while Palmer outlines his morning: a catch-up with technical assistant Nikki Rimmington 
(not a PA, although a young high-flier shadowing the CEO), a warts-as well as-all Asia Pacific sales review, 
a meeting of Palmer’s brand new female advisory board to discuss buyer research by Shanghai, as well as a visit to the design studio.

7.20am

Palmer punts his Rapide towards Gaydon with brisk precision, taking care not to rile people in lesser cars. Some will be his colleagues. Succinctly, he summarises Aston’s challenges: introducing “clinical quality” into its cars, bridging the earnings gap to the brand new range with specials like the GT12, Vulcan “as well as a couple of others”, as well as embedding cost-cutting into Aston’s corporate psyche so the company develops a free cash flow 
by 2018. “the item’s not sexy,” he says of the last point, “although the item’s definitely important.”

With progress in those areas, Aston Martin will be ready to replace the DB9 as well as Vantage, moving them farther apart in look as well as character. After which, there will be products for brand new niches, such as the DBX crossover as well as the Lagonda Taraf saloon, the latter recently promoted by a Middle Eastern plaything to a style for the earth. “In future, we can’t afford the feast-to-famine cycle where volume swings by 4000 to 7000 a year,” says Palmer. “Introducing brand new products such as DBX as well as Lagonda as well as stabilising sports car production at around 7000 a year will help us to avoid which.”

8.30am

Palmer has been at his desk for 15 minutes, riffling through post which includes Autocar. Rimmington summarises his agenda, reminding Palmer about the presence of a group of female visitors by Indonesia, marshalled by a forceful lady dealer by Jakarta. Some are ‘prospects’ as well as the CEO needs to say hello.

Then engineering director Ian Minards pops in with news of a successful crash test for an experimental Aston. “Crash results are like waiting for your kids’ exam results,” Palmer says which has a grin. “This particular one passed.”

8.45am

The Asian sales review can be a conference call featuring half a dozen experts at This particular end as well as a pleasant-sounding bloke called Patrik Nilsson, the Asian regional director, at the various other. There begins a serious examination of Aston’s sales performance, with Japan as well as Korea soon identified as priorities for improvement.

The air can be full of unfamiliar terms: closure rates, hot as well as brand new prospects, wholesale numbers as well as leads per quarter (the figure can be 4800; Palmer expects 6000 as well as stridently says so). In his office, later, I learn which there’s a remarkably accurate correlation between leads as well as realised sales, which can be why 4800 against a 6000 target isn’t enough. As Nilsson’s voice fades, 
I know I wouldn’t want his job.

10.00am   

Back in Palmer’s office, an impressive market intelligence expert, Carlee Hardaker, presents fascinating info about how the DBX as well as Lagonda have played with potential female buyers surveyed in Shanghai. Why does This particular matter? First, because female luxury buyers are remarkably numerous (30% of Chinese Ferrari buyers are women). Second, because the findings will inform progress of the DBX. Third, because Palmer can be keen to expand his embryonic female advisory board to eight or nine women worldwide, as well as This particular shows the validity of the idea.

Killer facts flow with density as well as speed. Palmer laps the item up as well as I struggle. The women find Aston’s brand story a key attraction, says Hardaker, like Hermes inside handbag world. The DBX concept has received wide approval, although its proposed electric powertrain hasn’t.

Some women wonder if two doors are enough (in production the automobile will have four) as well as whether there’s enough rear as well as boot space. although they ‘get’ the automobile, as well as Palmer can be encouraged. The Lagonda doesn’t fare so well; 
the item’s a bit too similar to a Rapide, says the research. 
Perhaps the trouble can be the Lagonda brand can be less well understood in Asia.

10.50am

We walk quickly to a stand-up meeting on quality – not just manufacturing faults although stuff like dealer treatment of customers. In January Palmer kicked off a brand new, nine-step system of identifying as well as defeating faults, as well as the group can be collectively proud which the number has been reducing weekly.

We talk sun-affected leather (brand new adhesive adopted), corrosion around door handles (process modified) as well as trapped earth wires (assembly procedure changed). Some of the group look uncertain about a hack being alerted to rare Aston faults, although the truth can be which I’m simply impressed with the rigour these people apply to fixing things. Were I an Aston owner, I’d love This particular meeting.

11.30am

We walk through a glass tunnel into the inner sanctum of the design studio where Palmer can be to join design director Marek Reichman as well as chief designers Miles Nurnberger as well as Matthew Hill to review a brand new style.

My brief can be to watch the process while not getting over-inquisitive about the cars. the item’s a tall order.

The studio can be a light, ballroom-sized space with many projects under way, some covered although most exposed to my gaze. As can be well known, the priorities are replacements for the DB9 as well as Vantage, plus the creation of several limited editions.

Farther away are a brand new saloon (maybe not a Rapide) as well as the DBX. Palmer hasn’t seen the automobile he’s come to review for a week, as well as key styling features have changed. although he gives his okay quickly as well as informally as well as then, pausing only to scan an Indoor buck whose features are quite different by anything in production, we head upstairs for a sandwich. As we eat, Palmer describes some of the hidden difficulties of being a car maker. The project I’ve just seen, for example, has had to be finished in far less time than normal, “because a delay would likely take £50 million off our 2018 turnover”.

12.30-12.45pm

Palmer chats with the Indonesian women, who crowd around, delighted to meet him. No fewer than nine are ‘prospects’. If four or a few buy, as should happen, the item’s another million inside coffers.

1.30pm

Time for a meeting about cutting costs. Palmer knows which This particular can be a permanent activity for successful companies; you don’t just do the item when you’re in trouble. Insults may fly, he warns, in which case I’ll be asked to leave. although things go calmly, possibly because no one wants to be the bad cop. Concessions are made.

I learn how the company can save £0,000 a year just by machining its alloy wheels in a different way which makes no difference to the buyer. There can be also a discussion around ‘corrected grain leather’, a material already used by Bentley which can cut trim costs. Most buyers will go for an upgrade anyway…

2.30pm

For the 1st time, Palmer has to depart by our programme for a secret pow-wow, so I troop off 
to inspect Gaydon’s brand new although already well-integrated £5 million chassis as well as Centeng shop. My guide can be Keith Stanton, director of Aston’s manufacturing operations. “These days 
we build everything knowing we’ll have to 
add to the item,” he explains. The process of bonding as well as riveting extruded aluminium components into an all-aluminium chassis tub, which will be conducted here, looks familiar although has been refined by much experience.

3.30pm

Palmer must depart for Heathrow. Tonight he’s on an overnight flight to Shanghai to represent Aston (alongside McLaren as well as Lotus) in discussions on how Chinese CO2 limits are affecting luxury car sales. On Friday he’ll be in Beijing for a market review as well as to conduct a brand new dealer “beauty contest”, as well as by Sunday night he’ll be home again.

On the way we call in at Wellesbourne, where Aston Martin incorporates a discreet Special Operations as well as Racing department, run by consummate engineer David King. This particular can be the place where cars such as the James Bond Astons are prepared, 
along with the likes of the GT12, the Vulcan 
(£1.5 million plus taxes) as well as the original Lagonda. This particular can be hallowed turf.

4.30-6.00pm

We head to the airport, Palmer fully employing the ACPO guidelines in his choice of a motorway cruising speed for the Rapide. After a day’s hard work, we have time at last to discuss the essential appeal of the Aston boss’s job. “by a very early age I wanted to be the CEO of a car company,” he says, “although when I decided to take This particular one by Nissan, I was pretty sure people would likely say I was mad. As far as I know, Aston has only been profitable for a few of its 102 years, as well as for only one of its owners. What were the chances of success?

“although the reaction has been great – not which I would likely have minded if the item hadn’t been. I’m 52, as well as I know the vital style generation will be the one after This particular, the one we pay for ourselves. I want to be around to make the item happen. Call the item arrogance, although I’m aware people remember every CEO of Aston Martin, as well as there’s something to be said for writing a bit of British car history. Call the item giving something back.” 

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