Aston Martin Hunting for Sales and an EV Partner in China

Aston Martin Rapide

Aston Martin is seeking a joint venture in China to ensure a future for itself in the world’s largest electric vehicle market, according to CEO Andy Palmer. The brand has previously stated it wants BEVs to account for roughly 25 percent of its global sales by 2030, with the remaining fleet adopting hybridized powertrains. However, Palmer said those early EVs sold in China may not wear the Aston name.

The automaker has also decided to build the RapidE electric sports sedan, limiting its production to 155 units sometime in 2019. While the model currently exists only as a test mule based on the gasoline-powered Rapide, Palmer claims the finished product will provide Tesla shoppers with what they should have been offered in the first place. 

“For me Tesla is a very credible competitor in the premium market, against Daimler, BMW, Audi, and the others. But they’re not in the [upper reaches of the] luxury market where we are … Most of the people who buy a Model S are buying it fully loaded. They’re not limited by their cash; they’re limited by the offer,” the CEO told Car and Driver late last year.

“We’re looking to those guys looking for something above Tesla. That customer probably isn’t looking for ‘Ludicrous mode.’ Our offer will have very credible acceleration — equal to a petrol Aston Martin — but you’ll be able to drive the car rapidly all the way around the Nürburgring without it derating or conking out on you.”

As the test version of the RapidE doesn’t appear to be ready to do that, Aston Martin needs a more compact power source than what the mule currently uses. That’s where the Chinese connection comes into play. According to Bloomberg, Aston is considering Contemporary Amperex Technology as its Chinese battery supplier.

Palmer claims his company is already in talks to share its lightweight materials and aerodynamic technologies with a Chinese partner. Again, that doesn’t mean the region will see battery-powered Astons in the next five years, but it does help the British company set itself up for future endeavors. Since China requires any foreign automaker to enter into a 50/50 partnership with an established domestic company, Aston Martin can only benefit from laying down roots now.

While EVs remain niche market, unable to tempt consumers the same way crossovers have, most governments are pushing for electrification — and China is far and away the most aggressive example. The country has mandated that a certain percentage of automobile fleets be electric, whether or not anyone wants to buy them. In 2019, China will institute a cap-and-trade program on companies with annual sales of more than 30,000 vehicles, requiring 10 percent of their fleet to be electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles. That level would rise to 12 percent of sales in 2020. Automakers unable to meet the quota would be forced to purchase credits.

[Image: Aston Martin]