The 2016 Geneva International Motor Show has been going on for the last two weeks, unveiling new models and car concepts for the year to come. Now in its 86th year, the Swiss auto show has become a who’s who in terms of car brands, ranging from Audi and Honda to Maserati and Tesla.
The crowd favourite however was the Aston Martin DB11, which CEO Andy Palmer calls “dynamically gifted” combining “exceptional design with the latest technology throughout”. Palmer elaborates that the DB11 is “not only the most important car that Aston Martin has launched in recent history, but also in its 103-year existence”. This reflection comes as no surprise due to the luxury automaker’s chequered past. In fact, Aston Martin has slid into bankruptcy seven times during its 103 years and has failed to turn a profit since 2010.
The DB series, named after onetime owner Sir David Brown, was arguably popularised due to its association with James Bond, appearing in 12 out of 24 Bond films. This love affair between two British icons positioned the DB as a bad boy’s car of choice, but has had negative connotations in the form of alienating a female demographic. It has been reported that out of an estimated 70,000 sales, over its entire history, only 3,500 Aston Martins have been sold to women. Therefore, the DB11 will mark a new era for Aston Martin as it introduces a new strategy to broaden its customer base.
Enter Charlotte, a young, attractive and wealthy female buyer-persona which the DB11 is targeting. While at the convention in Geneva, Mr. Palmer further proclaimed that “when you start on a new car, you start with your customer in mind” and thus “the DB11 has been designed for a young lady, sophisticated and rich”. This customer-focused view was ratified by Laura Schwab, President of Aston Martin’s Americas Division, who affirmed that “the car has broad appeal” and “is very approachable, regardless of your age or gender”. But how exactly does Ms. Schwab purpose to reach these ‘femennials’? With a cocktail of experiential events and personal word-of-mouth.
Even before Geneva, Schwab set her plan in motion by sending exclusive DB11 material to existing customers for a first glimpse of the female friendly supercar before the rest of the world. And, as of last week, physical DB11s are currently being hauled across America where Aston Martin teams are hosting parties for their past customers to experience the newest edition to the DB bloodline in person. These parties are being held in settings such as the country club a customer belongs to, and at times even in a customer’s home, where said customer is invited to come along with 11 guests to celebrate the DB11 in style. Not your average test drive huh?
Ms. Schwab believes that for a rarefied brand “to attract new customers, you start with who you know”, and in Aston Martin’s case she seems to have got it right as the DB11 already has 1,000 orders. Although it has not been released yet how many orders have come from so-called ‘femennials’, Christopher Cedergren, of consumer behaviour consultants Iceology, is optimistic. Cedergren claims that the promotional styling of “beauty and performance” is the perfect combination for capturing young and affluent consumers, particularly female.
This repositioning is supposedly just the beginning as Aston Martin hopes to move beyond sports cars and introduce crossovers and full size-size sedans over the next decade. For now however, the newly targeted DB11 has definitely left crowds at Geneva shaken and stirred.