Sunday, 27 July 2014

Lagonda rises phoenix-like from Gaydon

Aston Martin has once more dipped into its heritage box in search of treasures to please Middle East shareholders and customers, and bolster turnover and profit.

After the initial production (and financial) debacle of the Aston Martin Rapide, first rolled out in 2010 at the Magna Steyr facility in Graz, Austria and then repatriated back to the company’s facility at Gaydon, Warwickshire, Aston Martin has confirmed a bespoke product programme for a new super saloon aimed at reviving the historic Lagonda nameplate in a strictly limited series.

The Aston Martin Rapide, a grand tourer based on the company’s VH platform and powered by the 5.9-litre V12 gasoline engine, was the company’s first four-door saloon since the Aston Martin Lagonda was discontinued in 1989.

Lagonda, founded as a company in 1906 in Staines, Middlesex by America Wilbur Gunn, was named after Lagonda Creek, near Springfield, Ohio, the town of his birth.

In 1947 the company was taken over by Sir David Brown (of David Brown Gear Company fame and David Brown Tractors which in 1972 became a subsidiary of Tenneco in the US. Brown worked with Harry Ferguson building tractors in 1936 but, following disagreement over design details, each went his separate way with Ferguson linking with Ford Motor Company before setting up Ferguson Tractors in 1972). Brown merged Lagonda with Aston Martin which he also acquired. Among its products was the Lagonda of 1961 and the large and futuristic Lagonda designed by William Towns of 1976 and available in theory until 1989.

Now the Lagonda badge will once again appear on a luxurious and exclusive super saloon.

The “stunning” luxury super saloon revives the Lagonda ethos of ‘the finest of fast cars’ and will be offered exclusively in the Middle East, as a result of specific market demand.

The return of Lagonda follows in the wake of other projects such as the One-77 hypercar, the V12 Zagato and last year’s CC100 Speedster Concept – which started out simply as a centenary celebration design concept and, as a result of exceptional demand, later turned into two customer commissions.

Based on the brand’s existing flexible VH architecture, the new car is said to draw inspiration from the “highly sought-after” William Towns-designed Lagonda of 1976 and features many of the same cutting edge engineering techniques seen in modern Aston Martin sports cars such as the use of carbon fibre in the body panels.

The new Lagonda will appear in more modest numbers than the Rapide (its production once optimistically pitched at 2,000 a year), “hand-built by the finest craftsmen and women” at Aston Martin’s modern manufacturing facilities in Gaydon, in a dedicated building previously devoted to creation of the One-77 hypercar.

The new super saloon will be offered for sale by invitation only and, while pricing details remain confidential, the asking price will be commensurate with the car’s “exclusivity, quality and luxurious nature”. 

Aston Martin design director Marek Reichman said: “The debut of this luxury super saloon in the Middle East market will be an exciting moment not only for Aston Martin, but for discerning customers who are seeking the ultimate in luxury and personalisation.

“The new model, like its exclusive siblings the One-77 and V12 Zagato, has been created as a piece of exceptional automotive art. It has been designed and developed entirely in keeping with the spirit and ethos of previous Lagonda super saloons – notably the William Towns Lagonda – and as a tribute to this car it proudly bears the Lagonda nameplate,” he added.

It is reported that Aston Martin is in no hurry to replace former chief executive officer Dr. Ulrich Bez who has run the company since 2000. With funding assured from Investindustrial and previous shareholder Investment Dar, both of Kuwait, the company can progress to develop a new range of sports cars.

Among names in the hat, seemingly are those of Reichman and chief financial officer Hanno Kirner. Aston Martin has already begun upgrading Gaydon for its next generation of sports car founded on a new modular platform that will be carry engines sourced from Mercedes-AMG. The first will debut in 2016.

Meanwhile, sheikhd form the Middle East continue to have their classic Aston Martin cars restored and serviced in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, for many years the home of Aston Martin - the company.

The transformation wrought about by Tata Motors at JaguarLandRover suggests that a precursor company owned by Ford Motor Company can be brought back from the dead and made into a viable entity. And so it could be too for Aston Martin. 

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