Aston Martin’s talks with Daimler on Maybach near end

By Bloomberg

Kuwait’s Investment Dar owns half of British luxury sports-car maker Aston Martin
Aston Martin, the UK luxury sports-car maker, expects to conclude talks on cooperation with Daimler AG’s Maybach brand in coming weeks, chief executive officer Ulrich Bez said.

“Daimler is for us a preferred partner,” Bez said in an interview at the Frankfurt motor show. “We have not reached a conclusion so far. This will probably be during the next few weeks.”

Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said on Tuesday that the German automaker was talking with Aston Martin about Maybach and was “close to a decision.” Bez said his company has “various preferred partners” in areas where it makes sense to cooperate.

Maybach, a German luxury brand which had its heyday in the 1930s, hasn’t seriously challenged Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s Rolls-Royce and Volkswagen AG’s Bentley since it was reintroduced in 2002. Maybach sales topped out at 600 cars in 2003 and slid to 200 last year. Rolls-Royce sold 2,700 vehicles in 2010 and Bentley delivered 5,100.

 Aston Martin, an independent company since it was sold by Ford Motor Co to a group of private investors including Kuwait’s Investment Dar Co in 2007, is also preparing for an initial public offering, the executive said. A share sale would be a “natural thing” for its owners, though they are under no pressure to sell shares to raise financing, he said.

“We have just refinanced the company until 2017, we are financing what we are doing out of our cash flow and we are still profitable,” Bez said. “We are not under pressure, but if the time is right we’re going to do this.”

Aston Martin, which got an import license for China only two months ago, plans to open as many as 15 dealerships in “major cities” in that country next year, Bez said. The carmaker will likely sell about 300 cars in China this year, rising to 1,000 vehicles in 2012, with sales being led by its four-door Rapide model, the executive said.

“In emerging markets, sports cars are not as understood as they are England, in Italy or in Germany,” Bez said. “This takes some time but the Rapide is absolutely the right car there.”

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