Attention: Aston Martin…Ford’s Stake in Aston Martin = Grille Rights?

wikipedia/Alexandre Prevot     

How about we address an interesting topic in the web cache of the finer things in life with a different perspective.  The focus is “grilles.”  No, I’m not referring to 2lbs of grill bling in a rapper’s mouth driving a Bentley.  I’m referring to “grille rights” of car manufacturers when it comes to key features of a vehicle that are signature to the manufacturer invoking near/far brand recognition and often times euphoria.  Grille examples:  BMW…kidney grille, Rolls Royce…radiator grille, Bugatti…horseshoe grille; and to the subject matter prompting this post, Aston Martin’s distinct grille.



Recently I was slightly deceived when I thought at first glance from a distance and an obscured view, the Aston Martin’s distinct grille on a beautiful DB9.  As I voiced to my wife the pure beauty and form, a very distant second to hers, of the Aston Martin we were approaching at an angle; I was taken back by the fact it wasn’t an Aston Martin but simply a common Ford Fusion.  Yes, I know these two brands should not reside within the same article, sentence or even breath.

Findings & Future

This travesty prompted my research and I discovered many felt the same of this high-likeness as the message of the articles ranged from Aston Martin suing Ford for the Fusion/Mondeo copy to ones actually aware to the fact Ford did fully own and later a small percentage of Aston Martin.  Only Aston Martin and Ford know all the details of the ownership agreement and perhaps it included “grille rights.”  If Ford was paying the bills and your salary, how could Aston Martin say no?  Mercedes owns a 5% stake in Aston Martin and I don’t envision a repeat offense of a “grille” infraction, however we will see Mercedes’ technologies and engines infused within Aston Martin vehicles, per Andy Palmer.

Interesting.  I get the access to R&D, manufacturing costs and time-to-market savings, along with a stick in the eye of BMW and Volkswagen, but what is in it for Mercedes/Daimler in the long run?

  • Daimler egregiously passed on the opportunity to buy Bentley and/or Rolls Royce back in the 90s
  • Horrific lessons learned from the Daimler-Chrysler complete mismatch debacle
  • Dismal sales success with the ultra luxury Maybach line
  • Return of Maybach under the co-branded name Mercedes-Maybach
  • Lending engine and technologies to Aston Martin
  • Denying future larger stake in Aston Martin

Hmmmm….almost sounds like “reverse grille rights” leading to future ownership rights if certain KPIs are met by Andy Palmer and team; resulting in Daimler not missing an opportunity again to bring a hopefully new and improved successful ultra luxury brand under the brand umbrella in a few years.


Perspectives & Branding

I absolutely love perspectives, especially ones unearthed from the most unlikely of sources.  I have gleaned small to large amounts of knowledge over the years from many regardless of position, background, lack of industry expertise, income level, IQ, age and a host of other demographic elements.

So here is my perspective, built not on automobile expertise of 20-30+ years, but a connoisseur in customer experience, business/marketing strategy, voice of the customer and content marketing.  I operate in perpetual observation mode of changes in the marketplace of as many consumer products I can digest; along with the topic in this post…automobile body style changes, side mirrors, tail lights and now more than ever, grilles.  I often can tell a vehicle make and model at night with just a glance of the tail lights.

If you think about it often times the subtleties of a product add up to greatness and brand loyalty or at least create brand recognition.  The logo size and location on the product or even the natural flow of technology in the user experience can create brand loyalty and pride of ownership.  Ever seen an apple on a laptop or phone, shirt with a man on a horse playing polo, white star on top of a pen or an elongated crown on a watch?  Proper strategic branding, expectations and implementation can make or break the success of a product/company with a large impact on the bottom line.  Read Patrick Kulps’ article on Apple Surpassing Google as the top valued global brand in the newest list.  In Patrick’s article, branding and product (more branding) impacted the bottom line with a nice treasure chest full of gold coinciding with the rankings of the list.


Your Brand

Think about your brand.  Is it great enough to be in the top 10 valued brand list before or after Apple?  It could be with some help.  Remember Apple wasn’t always great and had to work up from unknown>good>not-so-good>good>great with a few bumps and set-backs along the way.  Apple still has plenty of room for improvement before reaching excellent status.  Ask yourself the following questions and feel free to comment or reach out to me to discuss.

  1. Do my internal and external clients value my brand?   (Be sure not to answer the question too quickly with a confident “yes” unless you have solid data to back it up.  Your perception or the nodding of heads from your CXO peers doesn’t count).
  2. Should we broadcast our target demographics and/or execute after solid research and strategic planning?  Do our target demographics want to feel targeted directly or subtle targeting?


One More Thing

Did I fail to mention the similarities between the Aston Martin Rapide S and the Hyundai Genesis grille along with the poor attempt at a wing badge (see red cars in above picture)?  I don’t recall in my research, Hyundai having a stake in Aston Martin currently or at one time?  Maybe they are vicariously living through Mercedes’ 5% ownership.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; however with a price delta over $166,000 USD, one might consider it more of an insult.

“It is better to fail in originality, than to succeed in imitation…” Herman Melville

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