Ford to re-introduce Aston Martin in America

RUSSELL HOTTEN

Aston Martin sports cars, made famous by the James Bond spy movies, are to be introduced into America. Ford, the US giant which owns the Newport Pagnell company, unveiled the new Aston Martin DB7 at the Detroit Motor Show yesterday.

The 165mph vehicle will sell for about $130,000 (pounds 90,000) when it goes on sale in Britain this summer but UK enthusiasts are likely to have to wait while US buyers are given priority.

David Price, executive chairman of Aston Martin Lagonda, said he expects to sell about 200 of the exclusive car in the US market.

World-wide, Aston Martin expects to sell 700 cars in 1996, up from 610 in 1995.

To support the new car, the company plans to nearly double its US dealer network to 20 from 11. The firm expects to have close to 100 dealers world- wide by the end of 1996 as they target a new popularity among buyers for sports cars.

No major national US advertising campaigns are planned, although Aston Martin will advertise in its high volume regions of the West Coast, Florida and the Northeast.

Aston Martin withdrew from the US market in 1993 because it became too costly to meet federal vehicle regulations. But the US is the world's single biggest market and it was only a matter of time before the company re-entered it.

Mr Price would not comment on Aston Martin's profitability, but said: "I should be walking around with a smile on my face in 1996."

Ford's chairman, Alex Trotman, said the carmaker was serious about its ownership of Aston Martin, which has fewer than 500 employees and has produced less than 13,000 cars in its 83-year history.

The left-hand drive DB7 Coupe and Volante come with a 3.2-litre, six- cylinder engine capable of a maximum speed of 165mph. The interior has Connolly leather and twin airbags.

Long the signature car of fictional spy James Bond, Aston Martin lost out to BMW in the most recent Bond movie, Goldeneye. In that film, Bond drives the new BMW Z3 convertible.

Ford purchased 75 per cent of Aston Martin Lagonda in 1987 and bought the remaining shares in 1994.

Meanwhile, Mr Trotman said Ford's operations in Europe will reverse recent losses and be "profitable" in 1996. "1996 will be a good year for the company," he said.

He said US sales in 1996 will rise to about 15.3 million, compared with an estimated 15 million in 1995. He was optimistic about the US economy, predicting "modest, sustainable" growth through the year, with low inflation and no significant chance of a recession.

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