Shouldn’t you have done that before?
“We had to pay our bills, most notably the one to build a new factory. We made that decision in 2016 when the going was good and were committed to it. You can’t build a new factory and a new SUV that’s true to your values by cutting corners. The costs were fixed in a bullish market that turned to crap.”
How bad was last year?
“Very. Our retail sales were up 12%, our marketshare was up in a lot of markets, but the slice of the pie was less and the profitability of what we sold not good enough. The list goes on. It was a bad year.”
Don’t you have to take the responsibility for that?
“Yes. I’m chief executive. I’m responsible for that and for where we are. Clearly there were factors I couldn’t control, which affected almost every luxury car maker, but it is absolutely my responsibility to get us through this.”
What would have happened without this investment?
“We would have had to take on more debt at nosebleed levels. $100m at 15% interest is pretty alarming and inevitably would have created problems down the road. It’s not where anyone wants to go, because it is toxic debt, but I’m not going to say that we would have faced doomsday – just issues to overcome down the road. Thankfully we have a solution that I sit here now and reflect on as being enormously positive for now and the long term.”
Why push on with the mid-engine programme?
“Well, I’m a car guy, so that helps, but in business terms the profit margins on those cars are attractive, the market is still growing and open, and there is very little cross-shopping among buyers that would harm our other vehicle sales. Tie those facts into our involvement and belief in F1, plus the arrival as Valkyrie as our halo car, and it makes sense.”
You’ve stated Valkyrie will arrive this year. How hard has that project been?
“We are building and running cars and it will be delivered to customers this year. That’s the facts, but if you’re asking if it has been easy then the answer is no. I’m not blaming anybody for that, because we are trying to make a car of the decade, if you will, a last naturally-aspirated, F1-derived car for the road. That’s difficult, and if you want to know how difficult then look at how Mercedes are getting on with its own Project One. We are a bit late with the project but no more than a bit late, and it will be phenomenal. What a halo to have for our mid-engined programme.”
“Valhalla was always in-house and will continue to be, as will development of our V6 hybrid engine.”
Could Racing Point, or Aston Martin Racing personnel, work on road car projects?
“Today, who knows? But it is possible.”
Could you work with Red Bull Advanced Technologies again in the future?
“I’m not discounting anything.”
How disappointing is it to delay your electric car plans, including the relaunch of Lagonda?