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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

DB11 powers Aston Martin back into black

Sales of the new model put the luxury British car maker on track to full-year profit

Aston Martin's DB11 has put the firm back on road to recovery. Arnd Wiegmann /Reuters
Aston Martin's DB11 has put the firm back on road to recovery. Arnd Wiegmann /Reuters

Aston Martin reported its first half-yearly profit in almost a decade on Friday as sales of the new DB11 model put the luxury British car maker on the road to recovery.

The 104-year old firm posted a record pre-tax profit of £21.1 million (Dh99.8m) in the first six months of the year, its first since 2008, compared with an £82.3m loss last year.

Aston, famed for making the sports car driven by the fictional secret agent James Bond, has benefited from surging sales with volumes rising 67 per cent to 2,439 vehicles, spurred on by the new DB11 model.

"It's the big uptick in volume ... plus we're getting much higher specifications on these cars," said the chief financial officer Mark Wilson.

The car maker expects full-year volumes to rise by around a third to about 5,000 cars and Mr Wilson said it is "increasingly possible" that the firm will post a full-year pre-tax profit this year, which would be its first since 2010.

Demand was at a low last year as the firm was still selling its range of older models ahead of the release of several new cars designed to boost volumes and its appeal.

The car maker, owned mainly by Kuwaiti and Italian investors, is implementing a turnaround plan which could propel it towards a stock market flotation by the end of the decade.

Following media speculation earlier this year, the chief executive Andy Palmer said a number of options were open to shareholders but declined to provide a time frame for any decision.

"They could sell to other private equity, they could sell to other luxury groups, they could sell to other [car makers]. They have a whole raft of possibilities, of which one is an IPO," he said.

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But the car industry is concerned that Britain's exit from the European Union in 2019 could harm its recent success with any tariffs and border checks jeopardising sales and risking the viability of plants.

Mr Palmer said the firm has ploughed resources into boosting its market share in the United States and Japan since the June 23 referendum last year to mitigate against any risks around the 15 per cent of sales currently made to the EU.

"We decided to invest money in marketing in the US," he said.

"We are trying to give a push in the US to increase our market share there, increase our volumes there (and) therefore decrease our reliance on Europe," he added. "To some extent, that would be true also of Japan."

The firm also suffered a setback earlier this year as it had to recall 1,658 Vantage sports cars and 2,244 DB11 coupe models.

Some Vantage cars are affected by a transmission issue whereby the gears can change outside of the driver's control, whilst the tyre pressure mounting system is incorrectly set in the DB11, according to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency.

The cost of the Vantage recall is in the "low hundreds of thousands" and changes to the DB11 will be less expensive, the firm said on Friday.