When describing his strategic vision, Palmer envisions Aston as more than a carmaker, preferring to compare it to the likes of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Don't expect to see it selling caps and scarves. However, it is venturing out of its comfort zone with things like the personal sub being developed in partnership with Triton Submarines. Then there's the 66-story condo complex, the Aston Martin Residences, going up in Miami.
And, at this year's Farnborough Air Show it revealed something James Bond would likely appreciate, a three-seat personal aircraft — capable of jaunting from London to Paris in just 30 minutes — that Palmer sees as part of a rapidly changing world of transportation. It would be. A functioning prototype of the aircraft, developed in cooperation with Cranfield University and Rolls-Royce Aerospace, is due in 2020, and he seriously predicts a production model could follow before 2030.
"It's remarkable what Andy Palmer has been able to do at Aston Martin on just a shoestring budget (and) in a very short time without diluting the brand," said David Sullivan, a senior analyst with AutoPacific.
What investors may be more closely focused on, however, is what the CEO has been able to accomplish on Aston's bottom line, which is now in the black for the first time in about a decade, according to Simon Sproule, its global marketing chief. In a regulatory filing ahead of the planned IPO on the London Exchange, Aston noted that adjusted pretax earnings for the first half of the year increased 14 percent year over year, to 5 billion pounds ($137 million). Sales during the period jumped 8 percent, to 445 million pounds.
That would be just a starting point under Palmer's plans, if it can hold course. Aston sold a record 5,117 vehicles last year, its best numbers since 2008. It is looking to quickly reach 7,000 to 8,000 annually, then 14,000 by the time all seven of its new models are in production. Looking further out, Palmer sees still more opportunity for growth, though he quickly added his preference to err on the "conservative side."
Asked what makes him wake up in a sweat at night, the native Brit said he doesn't think either Brexit or a Trump import tariff will be more than a minor setback. He's more worried about a global, Lehman Brothers-level financial shock.
Whether investors will buy that optimism could be demonstrated in the coming year, the timing and pricing of the planned IPO yet to be revealed.
Clearly, Palmer hopes to replicate the success of Ferrari, which went public in 2015. It's now valued at around $24 billion, or 35 times earnings. Anything close to Ferrari-level multiples would be impressive, said Sullivan, not only considering Aston Martin's troubled history but what has been happening with its former parent, Ford, which just suffered a downgrade in its debt to one notch above junk grade.
"It makes you wonder what would have happened," said Sullivan, "had Ford been able to make things work with the Premier Automotive Group," the one-time collection of European luxury brands that included Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo, as well as Aston Martin.