- voluble, ambitious aston martin ceo andy palmer is departing, to be replaced by mercedes-amg's tobias moers.
- with aston martin's stock price down more than 95 percent since 2018, moers will have his work cut out for him.
- although mercedes owns a stake in aston martin, this move doesn’t necessarily mean the formal relationship between these two companies will grow any closer.
aston martin has announced the departure of ceo andy palmer and his replacement by tobias moers, the current head of mercedes-benz's amg division.
palmer's removal doesn't come as a big surprise given the sliding fortunes of the english sports-car maker. the company's stock price has fallen by more than 95 percent since its ipo in 2018, with declining sales, mounting losses, and a struggle to raise cash to pay for development even before the covid-19 crisis arrived. few senior executives could have weathered such a storm—especially since palmer had been appointed to give the brand the stability it famously lacked. after taking control in 2014, he frequently made the point that aston had only been profitable for two years in its century-long history and had been bankrupt seven times.
while palmer ultimately failed to deliver security, he did do much to transform the company and the languid pace it previously worked at. having left school at the age of 16, palmer worked his way up from the bottom of the car industry—starting as a technical apprentice for a brake supplier—to very nearly the very top, becoming nissan’s global head of product development under carlos ghosn. it was a role, palmer ruefully admitted, that meant he was responsible for the creation of more cvt-equipped cars than anyone else, but it also enabled him to bring big-company thinking to aston.
palmer launched his aggressive "second-century plan" within weeks of starting as aston's ceo. this called for the rapid renewal of the brand's aged lineup, creation of the all-new suv that has become the dbx, and development of luxury ev models. he was also quick to broker a deal with daimler to allow use of amg's 4.0-liter twin-turbo v-8 and for future models to also share merc's electronic vehicle-control architecture. the plan was later amended to include a new range of mid-engine supercars designed to compete with ferrari, lamborghini, and mclaren.
affable, opinionated, and frequently prepared to go further than his pr minders would like him to, palmer was a popular interview subject. his car-guy credentials were burnished by both his obvious enthusiasm for his company's older products and a willingness to sign off on projects with marginal returns aimed at enthusiasts, most obviously delivering on his pledge to offer a manual transmission in the vantage. we should also be glad for the deal with red bull racing to give life to the adrian newey fever dream that is set to become the aston martin valkyrie.
all this work was expensive, of course—and the desire of the investors who had paid for it to see a return played a large part in the decision to float aston through an ipo in october 2018. this initially valued the company at the equivalent of nearly $5 billion, but within days of the floatation the stock price had started a steady decline, with steeper falls coinciding with increasingly gloomy news on sliding sales volumes, then the brand's need to raise more cash to stay afloat, with the biggest tranche provided by canadian billionaire lawrence stroll, who became aston's executive chairman earlier this year. the ambitious model plans were pruned back. development of evs and plans to return to top-flight endurance racing were axed. but when we last spoke to palmer, following the cancellation of this year’s geneva auto show, he was still keen to talk up the future, including aston’s development of a new, hybridized v-6 engine.
palmer told us the decision was inspired in large part by amg's decision to replace its v-8 with a downsized four-cylinder engine in future models. that was taken under the watch of the man set to replace him: tobias moers. the 54-year-old german is every bit as much an engineer as palmer, having joined amg after university before mercedes took control in 1999 and rising to become head of the division seven years ago. during that time sales have boomed: amg's global volumes increased from 20,000 cars in 2012 to 132,000 last year. moers has also been the driving force behind the delayed amg one hypercar—the one set to take a mercedes f1 powerplant onto the road—which is set to compete against the valkyrie.
although mercedes owns a stake in aston martin, moers's move doesn’t necessarily mean the formal relationship between the two companies will grow any closer, especially as we're told aston has already done significant work on its new v-6 engine. one of the biggest challenges moers will face when he formally starts his new role in august will be the task of unpicking aston's relationship with red bull racing, with the racing point formula 1 team set to be switched to aston martin branding next season. by then, customer deliveries of the delayed dbx should have started, and aston may well have won some of the breathing space it desperately needs.