The name ‘Q’ could hardly have more resonance – Aston Martin’s in-house Personalisation Department is where the firm’s more discerning customers turn when they feel that their exclusive sports cars aren’t quite exclusive enough…
Words: David Williams
Clients assume its title was inspired by ‘Q Branch’ of 007 fame; the fictional and highly secret R&D department tasked with providing Bond with his legendary Walther PPK and his Aston Martin DB5 complete with ejector seat. The truth is more prosaic. ‘It stands for Quality and Unique,’ says Dr Matthew Bennett, General Manager for Q By Aston Martin and VIP sales. ‘It’s where we draw on our customers’ inspiration to give them something special and unique.’
With the department now breathing extra, exquisite life into around 10 per cent of the 4,200 cars sold annually, worldwide, by the firm that’s based in Gaydon, Warwickshire, and demand growing fast, there can be no doubting the sentiments behind the department’s name.
Ejector seats notwithstanding, there aren’t many requests Q will turn down, each designed to heighten the heady sense of luxury, enjoyment – and of course the legendary image – customers can enjoy.
Recent demands have included a European owner who – not content with the elegant winged badge normally gracing bonnets and boots of the British marque – requested that the motif adorning his new £330,000 Zagato V12 should contain real wings. From an Egyptian Scarab beetle.
Other demands have included stunning – almost psychedelic – exterior paint jobs, sumptuous interior leather treatments, the application of Rose Gold plate and costly carbon fibre to every surface imaginable, brake calipers styled to match (precisely) the solid sterling silver seen in the Aston Martin badge, precious stones inserted into dashboards, radio controls created by hand-winding a single filament of carbon-fibre… the list goes on.
Many clients will spend around £1,000 on special contrast stitching on the leather steering wheel or upholstery
There are 149 Aston Martin showrooms in 44 countries worldwide and each is equipped to whet potential customers’ appetites for personalisation with ‘Q by Aston Martin’ leathers, veneers, bodywork finishes, bespoke stitching and other touches designed to make demanding customers’ cars truly unique. Many clients will spend around £1,000 on special contrast stitching on the leather steering wheel or upholstery, or perhaps the insertion of a small patch of hand-picked material into the cabin.
The next step up might be a special paint effect costing around £10,000, or 20 per cent on top of that if a client wants a ‘match to sample paint’ which often means a visit to one of Aston Martin’s special Q Lounges where personalisation experts deal exclusively with the Q range. There are lounges in Park Lane, London, and Beijing, with more to come.
‘Customers at this level often have multiple bases,’ says Bennett. ‘We are happy to take the whole 10-person Q team to them, if necessary.’
Given that customers frequently spend over 10% of the car’s list price (Vanquish, the car most often chosen for the Q treatment costs from £192,995) that’s unsurprising.
‘Alternatively an overseas customer might well come to London for a business trip with their family and we will provide service to the level they want, including a hotel and a visit to our Q lounge where they can discuss their car. They might take in a London show, visit our factory in Gaydon, meet the design or engineering team and then take one of our cars for a drive through the Cotswolds,’ says Bennett. It’s during these meetings that the finer points of a Q car are usually nailed down.
One customer said “OK, I love the car, now I’d like a matching handbag”
‘They might want the paint to match an existing classic Aston Martin, or even a piece of jewellery,’ explains Bennett. ‘One customer said ‘’OK, I love the car, now I’d like a matching handbag’’. It has a pink interior so now we’re making a pink handbag: she can have a piece of the car wherever she goes.
‘That’s the difference between us and other manufacturers; the close relationship between customers and our team as we realise their vision of their perfect car.’
Demand has grown from a mere 40 cars receiving the Q treatment in 2012, to 200 last year. By September this year the firm had already taken 200 Q orders. It’s the more demanding requests however, that Bennett particularly relishes.
‘One of my favourites is a V12 Vantage S we did for a customer in California,’ says Bennett. ‘It had a rich purple amethyst exterior with a bright Monterey Pearl front grille like teeth, plus an Obsidian Black interior punctuated with Vivid Purple leather details. It was stunning.’
The most outlandish request so far? ‘It’s always the one we haven’t had yet,’ says Bennett, for whom discretion is almost a religion. ‘We are not just dealing with what’s possible, we’re dealing with inspiration, making dreams come true.
‘There’s no such thing as a price list and a tick list; it doesn’t exist. We don’t publish prices for Q and don’t say this is possible or this isn’t possible. Our skill is to find out what the customer wants and a way to achieve that; if it seems we’ve reached a point where something’s not possible, it just means we haven’t got to the route of what the requirement is.
‘What they all want is something new and fresh with Aston Martin’s heritage; a car built in England at Gaydon. Beyond that, the only limit is their inspiration.’
113 Park Lane, Mayfair W1K 7AJ; stratstone.com