Tobias Moers has left Aston Martin. The former AMG chief, hired by Aston Martin majority shareholder Lawrence Stroll in 2020 to turn around the struggling British automaker, has today stepped down from his role as Aston Martin CEO. The move comes after the two men reportedly clashed over the future direction of Aston Martin.
Former Ferrari CEO Amadeo Felisa (below) has been appointed as the new Aston Martin CEO, with former Ferrari technical director Roberto Fedeli taking on the role of Chief Technical Officer. Longtime Aston Martin design chief Marek Reichmann remains in his role.
The installation of former senior Ferrari executives into the top roles at Aston Martin hints at the source of the reported clash between Moers and Stroll.
Under Moers, Aston Martin had been forging ever closer links with AMG, the performance vehicle division of Mercedes-Benz he once headed.
Moers killed off the in-house 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 engine program in favor of a deal to use the 4.0-liter Mercedes-AMG twin-turbo V-8 across the existing Aston Martin lineup, and in the forthcoming mid-engine Vanquish supercar. He wanted more Aston Martin powertrain and chassis development work done in Germany. (Of the V-6, he said, “I found it was just a concept when I arrived,” adding that bringing it to production would have cost tens of millions of dollars. “If the engine had been ready, then for sure I would have moved on it, but it was not. “)
However, Stroll, the Canadian billionaire who owns 16.7 percent of Aston Martin, appears to prefer an Italian approach to building luxury performance vehicles rather than a German one.
Amadeo Felisa, Stroll told reporters in London, has “extensive knowledge of both Aston Martin’s business and the wider automotive industry with an excellent track record and previous experience of leading a major ultra-luxury car manufacturer.”
Prior to being appointed CEO, Felisa was a non-executive director of Aston Martin.
Moers was regarded by many at Aston Martin as being difficult to work with. Several key executives left the company during his tenure, including vehicle dynamics chief Matt Becker, who is now vehicle engineering director at Jaguar Land Rover.
But he brought a much-needed focus to Aston Martin’s operations in terms of both product development and resource allocation, despite the significant economic and operational disruption caused by the pandemic. In addition to axing the in-house V-6 engine project, he moved DB11/DBS production onto a single assembly line at Gaydon, cutting the number of workstations needed to build the cars from 70 to 23.
He also closed the Gaydon paint shop and had all Astons painted in the new paint shop built for the DBX at St Athan, Wales, to improve efficiency. The St Athan factory, one of the flagship ventures under previous Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer was described by Moers as much bigger than the company needed. He also brought order to the troubled Valkyrie hypercar program, which was already running late when he was appointed CEO.
Dealer stock of unsold cars was also carefully reduced. Plans to bring back Lagonda as an electric-only luxury brand built on its own platform developed in-house were also shelved.
All the Aston Martins released on Moers’ watch—from the Vantage F1 Edition to the DBX707 to the new V12 Vantage—have been noticeably better and more coherently resolved cars than their predecessors, and the best Astons Aston Martin has ever built.
For most of its 108 years, Aston Martin has flirted with financial disaster, hauled back from bankruptcy by a succession of well-heeled benefactors—David Brown, Victor Gauntlett, Ford Motor Company, among others—who quickly learned the way to make a small fortune in the bespoke luxury sports car business was to start with a big one.
In 2014, Aston’s then owners, Kuwait’s Investment Dar and Italy’s Investindustrial, hired former Nissan exec Andy Palmer as CEO with a brief to revamp entire model range, including adding an SUV to the lineup, and to knock the company into shape so it could be floated on the stock market.
Aston Martin Lagonda went public in October 2018, valued at £4.3 billion ($5.15 billion). And flopped. By February 2019 Aston shares were down 42 percent, wiping £1.8 billion ($2.1 billion) off the company’s valuation, and by May 2020 they were worth little more than a twentieth of their original price.
As head of a consortium that had acquired a controlling stake in Aston Martin, Lawrence Stroll contacted Moers in January 2020 to offer him the top job at Gaydon with a brief to turn the company around.
But clearly it isn’t happening fast enough for the Canadian billionaire.
Financial results for the first three months of 2022 showed Aston Martin has continued to struggle. Losses before tax for the quarter almost tripled to £112 million ($140 million). It made revenues of £232 million ($290 million), suggesting a long way to go to hit its target of £2 billion ($2.5 billion) annually.
Will a pivot to Italy—it’s rumored that with Felisa in charge Aston Martin R&D work will shift from Germany to south of the Alps—help speed Aston Martin’s recovery?
It’s difficult to say. Moers’ strategy of forging closer links with his old employer made a lot of sense. Not only does Mercedes-Benz own 11.7 percent of Aston, but it’s also a major source of components—and not just engines, but also wiring architectures and infotainment user interface hardware and software. Closer links with Aston would have given more business to the German firm’s AMG subsidiary in terms of powertrain and vehicle development.
Longer term, AMG’s role in developing performance-oriented versions of the EV platforms underpinning the EQS and EQE sedans could also have eased Aston’s transition into EVs without the expense of developing a platform and vehicle architecture in-house that would sell in relatively limited volumes.
But with Amadeo Felisa at the helm, Stroll now has a CEO who, in a 26-year stint at Maranello, helped transform Ferrari from a near-cottage industry maker of exotic sports cars to a high-tech producer of high-performance vehicles and one of the world’s most valuable brands. Ferrari was spun off from FCA in 2015 in an IPO that valued it at $9 billion. Today, it’s worth $38 billion.
Felisa was replaced as Ferrari CEO in 2016 by Sergio Marchionne.
Then there’s the F1 angle. Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains currently supplies engines to the Aston Martin F1 team owned by Lawrence Stroll.
But in another nod to Ferrari, Aston Martin F1 chief technical officer Andrew Green says the team, which is constructing a giant new facility opposite the main gates of the fabled Silverstone Circuit, is seriously evaluating building its own F1 engine to meet the 2026 regulation change.
Lawrence Stroll clearly wants to make Aston Martin worth as much as possible as quickly as possible. And by replacing Tobias Moers with Amadeo Felisa, it’s clear he believes the Ferrari model, rather than the AMG model, is the way forward.
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