Aston Martin defends Valkyrie supercar after £15m hit to profits
Aston Martin was last night scrambling to defend its flagship Valkyrie supercar programme after unveiling a £15m hit to profits following delays in shipping the vehicles to customers.
The luxury carmaker said that profits for 2021 will be lower than expected after it delivered fewer of the £2.5m Valkyries than previously intended. It claimed the project is now running at full speed after Covid disruption.
It came as the company's chairman and biggest shareholder, Lawrence Stroll, denied reports that he is planning to replace its chief executive.
Mr Stroll said a report in Autocar was "categorically not true" after it claimed that possible replacements had been sounded out for Tobias Moers, who has been chief executive for 14 months.
The Valkyrie scheme is at the heart of efforts to revive Aston's fortunes following a disastrous three years since it floated on the stock market. The business was rescued in 2020 by Mr Stroll, who took over as chairman and ousted its previous chief executive Andy Palmer.
In a trading update, the company said that only ten of the hybrid supercars had shipped in the final three months of its financial year.
It added: "This was fewer than previously planned. The impact is timing only, all Aston Martin Valkyrie Coupes are sold and remain allocated to customers with significant deposits."
Despite this insistence that the programme is now on track, Aston's performance still compares poorly to that of rivals such as Volkswagen-owned Bentley, which hit a fresh sales record last year.
Mr Stroll said he was “extremely pleased that our core business has delivered to plan,” referring to the sales the company made in its luxury cars, such as the DB11 and DBX SUV, which performed well while the supercar business struggled.
He added: “It is a very long time since the core business was in such good health as it is today."
Despite this praise, Autocar reported that Mr Moers' future was at risk following the departure of a string of senior executives.
The latest to leave is Kenneth Gregor, chief financial officer, who announced his resignation last month.
While the company insisted he left for personal reasons, the move spooked investors and sent the shares down 7pc.
Mr Stroll told the Financial Times that Mr Moers has his full confidence.
Aston has about £809m of debt compared to a market value of £1.7bn.
The car maker, based in Gaydon, Warwickshire, releases its annual results in February. It is likely to post a loss of £237m for the year, according to analyst estimates, a better performance than 2020’s £299m loss.
A key test for the company will be the sales of its new luxury SUV, the DBX, said Andrew Burn, UK Head of Automotive at advisors Interpath.
He said: “The key thing for Aston Martin is how the DBX performs in the marketplace and the volumes."
The company launched a DBX variant in China for which it has high hopes in 2022.
Aston Martin and McLaren are unusual in not having a larger brand owning them and rumours of a deal between VW and supercar maker McLaren - denied by both companies - again focused attention on Aston Martin, said Mr Burn.
He said: “If Volkswagen buys McLaren what does that mean for Aston Martin? How can Aston Martin compete with that, given that they won't have as deep pockets?”