Aston Martin has officially delayed all plans for electric vehicles after taking on a desperately-needed new investment from Formula One billionaire Lawrence Stroll. The company says it has indefinitely suspended its first electric car, the Rapide E, after refusing to confirm rumors about the project earlier this month. And it has pushed the launch of its all-electric Lagonda sub-brand back from 2022 to “no earlier than” 2025.
The British luxury automaker decided to take on up to £500 million (around $657 million) from Stroll in exchange for handing over almost 20 percent of the company. This comes after Aston Martin suffered what CEO Andy Palmer called a “very” bad 2019, where the company lost more than £100 million despite increased sales.
Aston Martin announced the investment early Friday morning following an emergency meeting of its board of directors, where a choice was made between Stroll’s offer and a similar one from growing Chinese automotive conglomerate Geely. The Financial Times reported later Friday morning that Geely’s offer would have actually “accelerat[ed] the production of new electric vehicles” at Aston Martin by leveraging the EV technology that the Chinese firm has developed with Volvo, which it bought in 2010.
“You know I’m a great advocate of electric cars, going back to Leaf and the Nissan NV range, my favourite project of all. So I am wedded to the idea of electrification going forward,” Palmer says in an interview with Autocar about the investment.
Aston Martin lost a lot of money in 2019 despite increased sales
Palmer went on to say he’d rather focus on the company’s V6 hybrid engine in the near term, especially because it’s taking time for the all-electric market to develop. “You also have to remember that none of our competitors, bar Porsche, will have an electric car on sale before 2025. So we are on a pretty similar timeline to them, and at the vanguard of the luxury market still,” Palmer says.
The Rapide E has been sort of a haunted project from the get-go. Originally teased in 2015, Aston Martin built the first prototype in conjunction with Williams Advanced Engineering, the technical arm of the Williams F1 team. Not long after that, though, Aston Martin announced plans to co-develop the Rapide E as part of a joint venture with Chinese tech conglomerate LeEco. Unfortunately for Aston Martin, LeEco collapsed in on itself under the weight of a massive debt pile in 2017, forcing the British automaker to reduce the scope of its plans for the Rapide E.
Shortly after that, Aston Martin announced that it only planned to make 155 of the luxury electric sports sedan, once again partnering with Williams for the build. The Rapide E officially debuted at the 2019 Shanghai Auto Show, but never made it to market before Friday’s announcement. Aston Martin says the Rapide E has been “paused pending a review.”
While all that drama was playing out, Aston Martin announced in 2018 that it planned to resurrect its Lagonda brand for a new lineup of luxury electric vehicles. The company even rolled out a few dazzling concept cars in an effort to tease what’s to come from Lagonda. But those plans have also been put on hold as Aston Martin refocuses on its near-term survival and tries to avoid an eighth bankruptcy in its 100-plus-year history.
“2019 was a shite year for the industry.”
“This is a tough industry, but I’ve been in it 40 years and I hope people recognise that I’m good at innovating new vehicles, bringing those innovations to market and then marketing them with success,” Palmer tells Autocar. “2019 was a shite year for the industry. My job now is to navigate that, and with this investment I believe we have what we need to do that.”
Update January 31st, 12:41PM ET: Added information about Geely’s plan for Aston Martin from the Financial Times report.