INTERNATIONAL - Aston Martin is giving two wheels a try.
On Nov. 5 at the Milan Motorcycle Show, the beleaguered British brand behind such sports cars as the Vantage and the DB11 debuted the AMB 001, a 180-horsepower motorcycle legal only for track use.
It will be made in partnership with the British motorcycle brand Brough Superior and will be the first time a Brough Superior model has come with a V-twin, turbo-charged engine.
The announcement comes as the latest of Aston’s creative efforts to energize the brand, including a $700,007 coupe spec’d by Daniel Craig to be sold as a fantasy gift in Neiman Marcus’s annual holiday catalogue and even a picnic hamper to accompany its upcoming DBX SUV.
These have come after the 106-year-old company failed to generate much cash in the first half of 2019, had an initial public offering that flopped (company shares are down 71% since the offering last year), and was recently forced to raise $150 million in a bond sale as it faces liquidity concerns and generalized feelings of doom regarding Brexit.
It seems an odd, if not unheard-of choice; at one point in the aughts, Porsche built an engine for Harley-Davidson. Farther back, Jaguar got its start as Swallow Sidecar Co., an outfit that custom-built motorcycle sidecars.
The AMB 001 bike is part of the long-held tradition of luxury brands putting their names on non-car products, like watches, says Ian Fletcher, an automotive analyst at research firm IHS Markit.
“Aston Martin seems to be really big in terms of spreading the brand far and wide with building power boats and things, and this is part of it,” says Fletcher. In 2016, the brand opened up a shop in London’s exclusive Mayfair neighborhood with leather goods and baby strollers. “I think in some respects, the motorcycle will appeal to a brand completist who already has the Aston Martin watch and is embracing the brand fully.” (Perhaps a $4 million submarine is next?)
Ironically, for a brand of English heritage, the AMB 001 will be hand-assembled in the Brough Superior factory in Toulouse, France, with deliveries beginning in fall 2020. It will have a 997-cc engine built by Brough, with exterior details that reflect the partnership: the Aston Martin winged logo and a “Stirling Green and Lime Essence” paint job, according to a release hailing Aston Martin ‘s traditional racing colors. The wheels, forks, and brake assemblies will be in matte-black, with bare carbon fiber accents throughout. The seat will come in oxford tan, hand-stitched leather.
The benefits to Brough Superior, which was revived by motorcycle designer Thierry Henriette in 2013, are a boost in visibility and probably, some cash. (Established in 1919, Brough went bust in 1940 and languished for many decades among the most devoted enthusiasts.)
The benefit to Aston Martin is less clear, especially considering that the motorcycle industry has struggled to attract younger riders in recent years. There’s no expectation that the company will make significant money on the bikes, which will be sold for €108,000 ($120,376) each in a strictly limited edition of 100.
“[Car] designers seem to like motorcycles, so it’s a nice thing for them to do to work together,” says Fletcher, “but whether it adds anything to the Aston Martin brand, I’m not sure. Brough Superior certainly gets more eyes on their brand, which is quite niche.”
A representative for Aston Martin declined to comment on the details of the partnership.