I am surprised at the reports that M&M is considering a 50% stake in Aston Martin, the iconic and legendary British sports car brand long favored by no less than 007. Why am I surprised? After all, this is one hell of a brand!
The reason is that Aston Martin simply does not fit with what M&M is all about. M&M is a powerhouse in SUVs and UVs. It has a brilliant portfolio, having just launched the Rexton from its SsangYong stables. The year-old XUV-500 is a runaway bestseller with a continuing 5-month waitlist, even as M&M has ramped production to 5000 of these vehicles monthly. Not to mention its other successful brands like Xylo, Scorpio, Bolero, and others. A sports car, particularly a super-luxury sports car like Aston Martin simply does not fit with M&M’s portfolio.
And I am not saying this out of thin air. In many conversations with top executives (see our book The New Emerging Market Multinationals), I have been told that M&M is all about making “honest” UVs and SUVs. This is why it backed out of the bidding for JLR in 2008, according to these same executives, as it was primarily interested in the Land Rover brand, and not Jaguar. Indeed, M&M’s forays in to regular automobiles, starting with its JV with Ford over two decades ago, have never been terribly successful. So, moving even further away from its core business—honest, reliable, durable, and value-for-money UVs and SUVs—by buying a super-luxury sports car brand that sells its lower end models for over US$250,000+ a pop, even in the markets of UK, US, and Europe, does not appear to make strategic sense.
Clearly, I am not the only one to doubt the strategic logic of a 50% stake in Aston Martin. With these rumors swirling, M&M stock dipped some 3.37% on Monday. Business Line attributed this to news of the potential deal in an article headlined “M&M stock falls on report of Aston Martin Deal” (November 27, 2012, p. 10). I hope that the reports I am reading turn out to be incorrect and M&M does not end up acquiring a significant stake in Aston Martin, notwithstanding the fact that Aston Martin is an iconic brand.