Aston Martin chairman backs CEO after replacement rumours - report

Aston Martin's chairman has pushed back against reports he's looking to replace the firm's CEO with a former Ford Europe chairman.

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William Stopford
William Stopford
Journalist
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It looks like the honeymoon is over for Aston Martin CEO Tobias Moers.

Autocar reports Moers future as the British automaker’s CEO is up in the air following disappointing financial results, and a potential replacement has already been approached.

Chairman Lawrence Stroll, however, has pushed back on these reports, telling The Financial Times they’re “categorically not true” and that he’s “absolutely not engaged whatsoever in looking to replace Tobias”.

Stroll also praised Moers for achieving a major milestone in turning around the business.

The former became chairman early in 2020 when he led a consortium to buy Aston Martin, and Moers was appointed CEO in August 2020.

The German executive had previously led Mercedes-AMG, and replaced Andy Palmer as CEO of the British brand. The latter had been in the role since 2014.

Aston Martin issued a trading update ahead of the release of its 2021 financial results, warning it expects to miss its target for EBITDA – earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation – by around £15 million (A$28.35 million).

It’s blamed production delays for its Valkyrie hypercar, the “challenging” development of which commenced during Palmer’s tenure as CEO.

It was able to deliver only 10 hypercars in 2021, though it says all Valkyrie coupes are sold and demand for the Spider variant is double the allocation of cars.

Stroll has reportedly approached Steven Armstrong, a former Ford of Europe chairman now heading the Blue Oval’s transformation efforts in South America and India, to discuss stepping into the CEO role.

These discussions – which Stroll has refuted to The Financial Times – were said to be preliminary, according to Automotive News Europe.

Armstrong previously worked in roles within Ford’s defunct Premier Automotive Group, which included Aston Martin, Jaguar and Volvo.

Aston Martin sold 6182 cars in 2021, around half of which were of the new DBX crossover. That means sales have increased only slightly since 2019, when 5862 were sold, although one of Moers’ key focal points was to reduce the amount of unsold cars sitting in dealerships.

The company will release its full 2021 results on February 24, though it’s also confirmed in the interim that its year-end cash balance is around £420 million ($795 million), which it says is higher than expected.

Though Moers is only new to the role and Aston Martin had to recover from a brutal 2020, Autocar says there’s more to these reports than a disappointing EBITDA result.

The British publication believes Moers’ leadership style has left many employees bristling and the CEO has had to contend with a brain drain, as a barrage of senior executives have headed for the exits.

These include the company’s chief special operations officer, chief marketing officer, and head of Q operations, as well as other executives like chief executive for vehicle attributes Matt Becker, general manager Carl Elston, and head of product strategy and planning Mark Wallace.

Moers was candid upon assuming the role of CEO, describing the company’s position as “worse than I thought, about as bad as it could be”, and quickly terminating various projects.

These included the development of a new V6 engine, as well as plans to re-establish the Lagonda brand for a range of electric vehicles.

While Aston Martin had returned to profitability during former CEO Andy Palmer’s tenure, its financial position worsened in recent years.

It posted a loss of £104 million ($200 million) in 2019, even before the pandemic derailed its best-laid plans in 2020.

Aston Martin’s disastrous float in October 2018 failed to make the company appealing to investors, and share prices have continued on a largely downward trajectory.

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William Stopford
William Stopford

William Stopford is an automotive journalist based in Brisbane, Australia. William is a Business/Journalism graduate from the Queensland University of Technology who loves to travel (remember that?), briefly lived in the US, and has a particular interest in the American car industry.

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