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Friday, October 24, 2008

Aston Martin close to deal with Mercedes Benz

Talks of automotive mergers and takeovers seem all the rage these days, especially considering economic times that are forcing cost-cutting measures. Lately, though, rumors of another collaborative deal have emerged from the cities of Gaydon, U.K., and Stuttgart, Germany, the respective headquarters of Aston Martin and Mercedes-Benz. Back in April, we reported on a possible link between the two automakers in the future development of vehicles, but now, the talks are said to have become more heated and vastly intricate, giving many the impression a deal will be signed fairly soon.


According to Car's detailed account of the proceedings, the deal is unofficially known as Romeo and Juliet and will be worth more that 300 million euros (around $385 million). Included in its fine print is the minority ownership of Aston Martin by Mercedes-Benz. Currently, Aston is owned by a consortium of investors under the DAR umbrella from Kuwait and is headed by CEO Ulrich Bez. Daimler's Mercedes-Benz is run under Dr. Dieter Zetche, better known as Dr. Z.

Obviously, should such a deal be struck, Aston's engineering team would get generous access to Mercedes' advanced R&D and high-volume production facilities. In turn, it's believed Dr. Z has asked Aston to design and build the next-generation Maybach 57 and 62 sedans. Mercedes is said to hand off most of the car's design due to its volume-oriented business structure. Later on, Aston's involvement in other limited models will increase.

If Bez and Zetche come to terms, Aston could see more perks coming its way. In addition to gaining an all-access pass to Merc's design facilities, Aston is expected to utilize reworked German powertrains (among other parts) for its future lineup of cars. Recently, Dr. Z approved a V-12 development program valued at $193 million involving his brand's top secret twin-turbochaged M275 engine. The deal allows for Aston Martin to test the new engine, its seven-speed transmission and, most interestingly, its hybrid modules.

Added to the mix is talk of Gaydon utilizing a few next-generation Mercedes-Benz models as the basis of its upcoming Lagonda vehicles. Lagonda is pegged as the luxury marque of the Aston Martin brand and is speculated to be developing four new models -- a large sedan, four-seat coupe, four-seat cabriolet and SUV. The new Maybach, presumably to be penned by Aston, will donate its underpinnings and many of its design lines to the Lagonda sedan, while a revised GL will be used for the 4x4. The Lagonda coupe and cabrio would naturally use Mercedes-Benz CL technology.

Whatever the outcome may be, a potential merger between these two distinct brands is bound to ruffle some feathers and raise just as many eyebrows.

Do you think it will ultimately work?