The new Aston Martin DB11 has been called the most important model in the company’s 104-year history. And they are Aston Martin’s words, not ours.
Its importance is due to the fact that Aston’s ageing sports car line-up was in dire need of a refresh – the DB11’s DB9 predecessor was launched in 2003. As the model to launch Aston’s new era, it was vitally important the DB11 succeed in order to fund development of future models.
In a bid to generate consumer confidence, Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer announced he would personally inspect the first 1000 DB11s off the line and supply his email and phone number to those buyers so they could contact him personally should any issues arise.
The boss spent around 40 minutes on each car checking quality issues such as panel gaps, paint finish, electrical systems and more, while every 10th car was taken on a short drive. But why did Palmer devote more than 650 hours of his hectic schedule to this task?
“The main reason for doing it was I wanted to send a message to the company that quality is everything. I wanted to give a guarantee and a sense of confidence to the first 1000 buyers, because there’s always that underlying thing of don’t buy one of the early cars because they’re still getting them right. I wanted to say ‘look, I’ll guarantee it, here’s my telephone number’.”
Palmer tells MOTOR that he has had some calls but “not many, and it’s been an equal split between ‘this is bloody brilliant’ and ‘I’ve got this problem with this car’ and the ones that have a problem we fix immediately and try to go the extra mile. There’s no such as the perfect launch.
“The first six weeks was difficult because we were having problems with suppliers coming up to speed, missing parts, and it was quite hand-to-mouth. I think in the past, because the business has always run on a shoestring, the cars would have gone out, and they would have been fixed in the dealers.
“Now, the quality inspectors on the line, the people responsible for the gate know that they’re fully empowered to turn a car away if it’s not right [because] they saw the CEO standing at the end of the line saying ‘send that car around again, that’s not going out, I don’t give a shit whether we go bankrupt in the process, we’re not sending crap cars out to the customers’.
“Our business plan was to do 1000 DB11s last year, we did 1005, but we worked 24/7 and all of Christmas, so it was a struggle to make it, but I can guarantee not one car went out that I didn’t inspect and I wasn’t happy with.”