March 28, 2014 00:00
By Kingsley Wijayasinha
This Aston Martin division doesn't equip your vehicle with machine guns or ejector seats found in 007's car, but offers you a range of exquisite paints, leathers, veneers and special materials that individualise your Aston and give it special character
Mention the letter “Q” and the picture that jumps to mind is the lovely, wise old Englishman responsible for developing the latest gadgetry for Bond, James Bond.
But in reality, Q isn’t just a character played mostly by Desmond Llewelyn. "Q" actually does exist -- representing the bespoke division of Aston Martin, the British sports car maker that has long been associated with 007. Okay, so we won’t be seeing machine guns, ejector seats or the good old trustworthy oil-slick dispensers being offered by Aston Martin’s Q Division, but what you can experience is a range of exquisite paints, leathers, veneers and other special materials that help truly personalise your Aston Martin.
Matthew Bennett, who is general manager of VIP and Q of Aston Martin Sales, recently jetted into Bangkok to introduce the special division to Thai customers at the Bangkok International Motor Show.
According to Bennett, possibilities are indeed endless with Q, which unlike BMW’s M Division and AMG of Mercedes-Benz, is not involved with performance but “individualisation”.
“There’s no catalogue – we start with just a clean sheet of paper,” Bennett put it succinctly. “We ask the customer what they want to express. It could be the copying of a theme or to bring out something that they did in the past. We ask the customer about their inspiration and it could be another car, a piece of clothing, a yatch, or even a stealth plane,” he said.
Of the 4,200 Aston Martins sold last year, about 200 got the Q treatment.
“We want to maintain the rarity of Q and keep it an exclusive club,” he said matter-of-factly, citing Aston Martin customers as collectors of rare objects. “What most customers are concerned about is the value of the car, not the cost. We start the conversation by asking customers what they want to put in to make it their car.”
This is the first time that a Q car is being displayed in Thailand and Bennett is confident it will fit in perfectly at the Aston Martin booth. While the largest market for Q is the United States, there has been a rise in the number of customers in other regions, particularly China and the Asia-Pacific.
“This is one of the reasons why we are here in Thailand right now,” he said.
Bennett said with Q, customers must think that they are working with an artist.
“Commissioning cars from us is like giving an artist a number of instructions to carry out. For example, you might want a horse theme, or want to change particular items in the car. And the end of that process does not come when the car is finished because it starts a new project for our designers, who go on to the next model,” he said. “How cool is it to suddenly get a phone call from Aston Martin’s design director asking about your car?”
The Q process starts from the assembly stage and although it takes about three months to build a car with considerable personalisation, it could take up to nine whole months in some cases.
“Some types of patterns and designs can only be carried out with hand spraying as robots are unable to paint changing shades of colours,” he pointed out.
To start with, an Aston Martin isn’t a cheap car, so personalising one definitely isn’t.
Bennett said there are no price quotes, since much of the work is not going to be repeated due to its exclusivity. However, you can start as low as US$1,000 (Bt32,500), for example, to have the tip of the gearshift paddle painted in a colour of your choice.
According to Bennett, customers in general normally pay up to an extra $15,000 to personalise their cars, but at Q that price can easily triple. “There isn’t a catalogue for customers to pick items from, but we show them samples of what we can do to their cars. After they go through the samples they have a better idea of what they want,” he said.
Bennett flourished a large book containing samples of what Aston Martin customers had asked Q to do to personalise their cars.
You can check out the Q car on display at the Bangkok Motor Show. It is a V12 Vantage S in Arctic White featuring sports seats with Alcantara upholstery and red carbon-fibre fittings.