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Aston Martin celebrates its centenary with a stunt in Dubai

posted 19 Jan 2013, 10:35 by Mpelembe   [ updated 19 Jan 2013, 12:35 ]

British luxury carmaker Aston Martin celebrates 100 years by flying a limited edition red Vanquish underneath a helicopter onto the top of the seven-star Burj Al Arab hotel.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (JANUARY 17, 2013) (REUTERS) -  Aston Martin may be one of the most luxurious carmakers in the world, famous for transporting James Bond across some of the most exotic locations in the world, but the company chose to celebrate its centenary on Thursday (January 17) by flying it through the sky.

Dozens of people gathered in the grounds of the iconic Burj Al Arab in Dubai, the self-rated seven star hotel, to watch a special edition red Aston Martin Vanquish be transported onto the hotel helipad, suspended from a helicopter.

The stunt forms part of Aston Martin's planned host of centenary spectacles, which was set to include a nod to last year's British Olympic opening ceremony which saw the Queen and James Bond actor, Daniel Craig, simulate a sky dive.

Aston Martin's CEO, Ulrich Bez, was due to parachute onto the Burj, the jump was cancelled at the last minute due to strong winds.

The independently owned luxury brand has been making cars since 1913 and is one of the favoured automobiles of the fictional British spy character, James Bond, who also celebrated a milestone 50th birthday last year.

Speaking to guests on the lawn of the Burj, the British ambassador to the UAEDominic Jermey, stressed the significance of the celebrations for Britain which saw a year of milestones events in 2012, including the Queen's diamond jubilee.

"It really was tremendous to see this extraordinary helicopter with this car swung underneath coming into land just in front of us," he told guests.

Aston Martin plans to invest $1 billion in new products and technology after Italian private equity fund Investindustrial bought a 37.5 percent stake last month via a capital increase agreed with majority Kuwaiti owner Investment Dar.

Speaking to Reuters television in front of another special edition black Vanquish firmly on the ground, Bez said it would make the manufacturer stronger.

"It has one aim: this is to increase the value of the investment. Aston Martin is not a conglomerate which you would sell parts of and destroy things, Aston Martin is one entity, a brand, and its strongest part is the brand and there is nothing that you can take apart you can only make the brand and product stronger and by this I am absolutely confident that a private investment house, or such an entity, is very good for Aston Martin," he said.

The 100-year-old maker of the DB9 and Vanquish sports cars has struggled in recent years.

It sold 2,340 cars in January-September 2012, 19 percent down from 2011.

The company has cut costs but needs funds for research and development and to create new vehicles.

Investindustrial has said the group hoped to transform Aston Martin in a similar way it revamped Italian motorcycle maker Ducati by expanding Aston's model range and strengthening its global dealership network.

Bez also denied the entry of the private equity firm was just a quick fix because Aston Martin could not draw another car manufacturer as some analysts suggested.

"We are very proud that we are independent because we have belonged to a very good car company, but a luxury and an exclusive company is better off independent and able to talk to a lot of people," he said.

Aston Martin, perhaps best known for its classic DB5 sports car from early Bond movies, has said the deal would enable it to invest in new products and a technology programme up to 2018.

The British carmaker is owned by a consortium of its chairman David Richards,Investment Dar and another Kuwaiti fund, Adeem Investment Co. U.S.-based Ford still holds a small stake.

Aston Martin sells some 15 percent of its vehicles in Asia but wants to significantly raise its presence in emerging markets like China over time.

"[We have] 15 deals in China, they have just started and they will be, in three or four years, in a very strong position because they will understand the brand, they will have developed a customer base and so in a time horizon up to five years we will have a very strong hold in China. This is how we approach these markets," Bez said, adding its emerging market expansion plan focus was not solely on China.

"And, we say, for the Middle East is also a market like this which needs development, and this is why we are now present in Dubai and hopefully in the foreseeable future inAbu Dhabi and grow the understanding and visibility," he said.

Aston Martin rival Jaguar Land Rover has spent some $800 million over the last five years on marketing and expanding its dealerships in China.

The communist state is now close to becoming JLR's largest single market.

Aston Martin was sold in 2007 by U.S.-based Ford Motor Co (F.N) for 479 million pounds, to Kuwait's Investment Dar and Adeem Investment Co.