x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Aston back in the UAE and on solid ground, says chief executive

Dr Ulrich Bez, the chief executive of Aston Martin, talks about the company's new Dubai showroom and the future of the car maker

Ulrich Bez, the CEO of Aston Martin has no worries about being able to maintain the exclusivity of the brand. Paul Thomas / Bloomberg
Ulrich Bez, the CEO of Aston Martin has no worries about being able to maintain the exclusivity of the brand. Paul Thomas / Bloomberg

Aston Martin's CEO, Ulrich Bez, is standing in the carmaker's newest showroom in the heart of Dubai, looking remarkably fresh for someone who has literally just arrived in the city after an overnight flight from London. He's been smiling a lot and taking photographs of a pristine DB5 that's parked outside the dealership. Today of all days, he has something to smile about.

Just minutes ago, approximately 50 media types started to exit the premises after a short(ish) presentation, and I'm the only journalist left in the building. Bez, I've been informed, wants to talk to The National, and who am I to get in the way of that?

Sensing that Bez is fed up with talking about the newly-announced majority stakeholder sale of the company, I forget about grilling him on this. The way I see it, who cares if Aston Martin is sold to another company, so long as its pockets are deep and further investment can be made to make a frankly brilliant range of cars even better. After all, it's worked tremendously well for Jaguar Land Rover, for whom business has never been better.

Instead, I ask him about how Aston Martin can continue to evolve and excite the marketplace. How, I query, can the company get out of what many see as a design rut? The range (forgetting the Cygnet), from Vantage to DB9, Rapide and Vanquish, looks like a variation on the same theme.

"We do not need a revolution," he says after a lengthy pause. "Our cars have perfect proportions and there is no need to change this. Once the basic design is this good, why would you do something different?

"I always say that, in politics, if there is a complete change, it's because something was wrong in the first place. There is nothing wrong with Aston Martin design, so why do we need to start from scratch with something new?"

He points out, too, that in the company's 100-year history, it has only built 65,000 cars and, with the current annual production range of 4,500, there's no danger that their exclusivity will be diluted any time soon. He has a point.

The new dealership is in a prime location, right across the road from the Dubai Mall. Unlike every other car company you could care to mention in the UAE, however, the company has no local business partner.

"We are different from all the rest," he says defiantly, "so when it came to re-launching here [after an absence of more than two years], we wanted to do it on our own terms. It's been hard work but it's been worth it."

There are new models in the pipeline for 2013, that much is obvious, although he won't be drawn on what they are just yet. Instead, we can drink in the gorgeousness of the new Vanquish, which replaced the DBS and brings with it much in the way of quality and driveability improvements. Bez knows his market and it isn't, he says, the same as Ferrari's or Lamborghini's. "What we offer drivers is usable, accessible performance. It's all well and good having a car that does over 330kph, but nobody really gets to use that - with an Aston Martin, you can still drive hard on a track but then you can take your wife away in it for the weekend and she won't be complaining about noise or uncomfortable seats."

Motorsport, he stresses, continues to form an important part of Aston Martin's commitments. "Our gentleman [racing] drivers," he quips, "provide extremely important feedback for us when it comes to development. But there's one thing they always say - that these cars are comfortable and easy to drive. And that helps them win races."

With that I bid him farewell and congratulate him on this splendid new facility. Nothing looks or sounds quite like an Aston Martin and I look forward to seeing and hearing many more of them on the roads and streets of the UAE. It's fantastic to have them back.