The Vantage is bought by owners with an average age of just over 50. Palmer hopes to push that figure into the 40s, with younger buyers attracted by its new look. "We are targeting younger customers because we are seeing younger customers coming to the brand, particularly in places such as China,” Palmer said.
The new Vantage has a 510-hp version of the twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 engine used by the DB11 V-8 and supplied by Daimler’s AMG performance arm. It has a top speed of 195 mph (314 kph) and can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds, Aston Martin said. The front-mounted engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission supplied by ZF and fitted to the rear of the car. A manual gearbox from Graziano will be offered as option in around 12 months’ time, Palmer said.
The Vantage launched in 2005 when Ford Motor owned Aston Martin. Prices will start at 120,900 pounds in its UK home market, 154,000 euros in Germany and at $149,995 in the U.S., its expected largest market. The UK price represents a jump of 22 percent over the current model.
The car is built on a version of the bonded and riveted aluminum chassis that underpins the DB11, but 70 percent of the components are different, the company said. It has no active aerodynamics such as a lifting rear spoiler but is one of the few Aston Martins to create positive downforce at the rear thanks to its built-in tail spoiler and rear diffuser. The two axles have been placed as far apart as possible to help with the handling in a car that measures just 4465mm long, 284mm shorter than a DB11 and 34mm shorter than a Porsche 911.
The Vantage was benchmarked against higher powered versions of the 911, one of the key rivals Aston is targeting. Aston’s ‘proxy’ customer for the car, a 38-year-old Frankfurt based banker called Marcus, currently drives a 911. The company also hopes to move customers up from the Jaguar F-type, a similarly muscularly front-engined/rear-wheel-drive sports car but selling for less money.
Aston Martin said it has amassed many orders for the car after seven weeks of private viewings in the UK, Europe, China and the U.S. It didn’t give a final figure, but in the UK, 80 percent of the 470 prospective or current customers who saw the new car placed an order, a source said.
Production of the Vantage will begin at Aston Martin's factory in Gaydon, central England, in the first quarter of next year with deliveries starting later in spring.
The car is the second of seven new cars Aston has promised in seven years under its "Second Century" business plan, which started with the DB11. Following the Vantage will be a new high-end Vanquish sports car to be unveiled next year and the DBX SUV arriving in 2019. A mid-engine sports car will follow in 2020, with two sedans targeting Bentley and Rolls-Royce customers arriving after that.
Aston Martin is pursuing a turnaround plan designed to return it to profitability and set up a possible stock market flotation.
With the Vantage, it hopes to reach full capacity of 7,000 sports cars at its Gaydon plant in 2019, which would be the most cars it has produced for a decade, underscoring how crucial success of the new model is.
"It's important fiscally because it is the car that really moves us into that positive free cash flow territory, but I think it was also important industrially because you are now talking about a plant that is full," Palmer said.
Aston is also building a new factory in Wales where the DBX will roll off the production line from late 2019.
As Aston grows, Palmer has said its owners, mainly Kuwaiti and Italian private equity firms, could sell the company to a larger car group, other private equity firms or launch an initial public offering, but that the decision and timing were matters for the shareholders.
Reuters contributed to this report