Aston Martin sees sales of up to 7,500 cars in '08


FRANKFURT, May 25 (Reuters) - Aston Martin, which supplies mythical British secret agent James Bond with his DBS coupe in the upcoming Quantum of Solace movie, aims to sell between 7,000 and 7,500 luxury sports cars this year.

"More important is the mix," Chief Executive Ulrich Bez told Reuters on the sidelines of showcasing the carmaker's new engineering test centre adjacent to legendary 14-mile Nordschleife circuit at the Nuerburgring race track.

Bez himself competed as part of the four-man crew of the V8 Vantage N24 "Kermit" that finished 27th out of 220 starters in this weekend's Nuerburgring 24-hour endurance race.

Aston Martin's 125 dealers sold a record 7,300 cars last year including its V8 Vantage and DB9 grand tourer, which sells for upwards of 114,000 pounds ($225,700). Austrian partner Magna Steyr will begin building 2,000-plus units of the new four-door Rapide annually starting late next year.

While Bez opened new dealerships last year in Moscow, Shanghai and Beijing, he said an insufficient amount of brand awareness meant the company would not focus on expanding its sales points in emerging markets, where new elites are snapping up the trendiest of luxury brands.

"Rome wasn't built in a day," he said, explaining why Aston Martin was patient in its global expansion.

Bez recently opened sales showrooms in Valencia and Bordeaux and plans to increase the total number of dealerships to 140 this year with 10 more coming in the next few months in cities like Seattle, Istanbul, Warsaw and Bari.

"A dealer needs to sell about 50 cars to be profitable," he added.

This means that its current dealers are most likely all earning a margin -- a prerequisite for making future showroom investments that is a criteria for Bez when selecting the right partners for the luxury brand.

Ford sold Aston Martin for 479 million pounds ($948 million) in March 2007 to a consortium led by David Richards -- former Formula 1 Benetton and BAR racing boss -- John Sinders and two Kuwaiti funds including Investment Dar , ending almost 20 years as part of the U.S. carmaker.

Bez, a former Porsche engineer under whose management Aston Martin has blossomed since he took over in 2000, agreed to stay on for another five years under the new owners.

(Reporting by Christiaan Hetzner, editing by Leslie Gevirtz)



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