It’s been in Singapore for the last two decades. However, with its previous showroom at Chang Charn Road (instead of the busier Leng Kee Road, home to many of its counterparts), Aston Martin was literally hidden from public view.
“People tend to associate location quite strongly here because it’s a small, compact marketplace,” says Dan Balmer, head of global marketing for the automaker. “I spoke to people about Aston Martin before I worked for the brand and they would not know where the location was in Singapore.”
But that’s about to change. Thanks in part to its new partnership with Wearnes Automotive, the Brit car marque has relocated to Leng Kee, alongside neighbours the likes of Jaguar, Land Rover and Bentley. “It’s good to have visibility,” agrees Balmer, who is in town for the opening of the brand’s new space. “[People] can see [the Aston Martin facility] straight down across the road. They will know we’re in the right place.”
That’s not all that Aston Martin is celebrating. As the launch of the new 570-sq-m place also happens to dovetail nicely with the cinematic release of Spectre, the newest 007 movie, they are unveiling the sexy new DB10 they created for the movie today — something that is generating quite a bit of excitement. The walls of the showroom have also been adorned with black-and-white photos of the actors who have played Bond over the years, while the DB9 GT Bond Edition is strategically placed near the doors to receive anyone who walks in.
Despite today’s focus on the movie franchise, Aston Martin wants to be more than just Bond’s car. “We’re quite keen to be broader than just James Bond. It’s a bit like how Daniel Craig or Pierce Brosnan would see themselves before that. They would say: ‘I don’t want to be only known as the Bond character.’ And we’re the same,” Balmer says.
Which is why the automaker has embarked on a new journey with Wearnes Automotive. Previously in an independent partnership with SK Djeng and Derek McCulley in Singapore, its new business relationship has led to not just a new facility, but one that boasts a 380-sq-m showroom and a 190-sq-m workshop — the first air-conditioned workshop in Southeast Asia — within it.
“A combination of strength and depth, and having the right facility, brand heritage and approach,” says Balmer, will help the marque gain much needed visibility in the market. “We’re doing a new car every year for the next few years…that’s our product plan, which for us is quite intense to work on but exciting at the same time,” he adds. Impending new launches include green cars, such as an electric concept that’s based on its four-door Rapide, as well as the DB X crossover, another electric car.
Specifically in Singapore, “you’ll be seeing more of us, in terms of how we market ourselves,” he says. What he means is that the brand intends to bring in special concepts — such as the DB10 — and will also host more events; rather than plastering advertisements of the Vantage or DBs across a double-decker bus. It will remain true to its brand values, he affirms: “Aston isn’t necessarily a loud, shout-y brand; it has that kind of understated quality. And the people who buy the brand are not shout-y either; they are understated and more discerning.”
Balmer says Aston is a brand that appeals to both younger and older drivers, as well as men and women. “I’ve met some clients, who are in their 20s, buying the car because they want to drive a more extreme car that has that kind of understated, reserved quality,” he shares. “What we do have a strong potential in is the female market. They buy our car because they go for the beauty and design.” As such, it doesn’t see the need to release cars that target a specific demographic. The GT12, for example, has seen many younger buyers because of its more extreme, powerful design. The DB range attracts an number of older buyers, having grown up seeing the vintage DB5 on the big screen. And not to mention, Aston’s range of about 16 makes is wide enough for any petrol head to take their pick.
So of all the cars in the automaker’s portfolio, which one is Balmer’s own road candy? “Vanquish Volante,” he says. “Because it’s the ultimate GT, it’s a great cruising car and it’s got a V12 engine so it sounds wonderful — just like how an Aston Martin should be.”
Over the last 50 years, James Bond has driven some of the most covetable Aston Martins on the big screen
1. 1964’s Goldfinger: DB5
The DB5 made an appearance in the third 007 movie, marking the start of a relationship between the film-makers and the Brit automaker. First driven by Sean Connery as Bond, the DB5 was later featured in 1965’s Thunderball, 1995’s GoldenEye and 2012’s Skyfall. It also had a short cameo in the most recent movie, Spectre. Equipped with an ejector seat, pop-out gun barrels, a bullet shield and a three-way revolving front number plate, the car from the 1964 film sold in 2010 to banker and car collector Harry Yeaggy for £2.6 million.
2. 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: DBS
This coupe was notably used by the James Bond played by Australian actor George Lazenby. Unlike the DB5, this one sported no gadgets other than a custom-built glove compartment for a telescopic-sight rifle. It was also briefly featured in Diamonds are Forever (1971).
3. 1987’s The Living Daylights: V8 Vantage
After an almost 20-year hiatus, Aston Martin made a comeback in this film, with Timothy Dalton making his debut as Bond. Volante and Coupe versions of the V8 Vantage appeared in the film and were customised with cool features such as retractable outriggers, tire spikes, missiles and lasers.
4. 2002’s Die Another Day: V12 Vanquish
With the introduction of the Vanquish, Pierce Brosnan became the first Bond to drive two Aston Martins, having driven the DB5 in GoldenEye (1995). Other than being equipped with the usual Bond requirements such as front-firing rockets, shotguns and tire spikes, this grand tourer also comes with a cloaking device that allowed it to become invisible at the push of a button.
5. 2006’s Casino Royale: DBS V12
A modern version of the previous DBS, the DBS V12 appeared in Daniel Craig’s debut Bond film. The sports car featured no special functions, other than secret compartments that housed a spare gun and a defibrillator. It made the Guinness Book of Records that year for rotating seven times at a speed exceeding 113kph in the crash scene. It reappeared again in Quantum of Solace (2008) during the pre-title car chase.
6. 2015’s Spectre: DB10
The DB10 marks the first time Aston Martin developed a car specifically for the film. Built by the marque’s design and engineering team, the speedster comes in only 10 units, all of which were made specifically for the latest Bond blockbuster. Other than one unit that will be put up on auction this year, the DB10 will not be released for sale.