Aston Martin’s bumpy ride

Iconic publicity still for Goldfinger with Sean Connery leaning against the Aston Martin DB5. But more recently, Aston has had a bumpy ride.

Thanks to the James Bond movies, the cars of Aston Martin are seen as a fantasy. In reality, the company has had a bumpy ride for a while.

Aston Martin’s financial results aren’t pretty. Business Matters via Barclays spells it out.

“The company said it made a £92.3m pre-tax loss for the first nine months of 2019 – £13.5m of that was recorded in the third quarter to 30 September. It had achieved profits of £24m in the same nine month period in 2018.

“Aston Martin said revenues fell 11% to £250m in the last quarter – led by a 16% decline in wholesale volumes.”

From 1987 until 2007, Aston Martin was part of a larger automaker, Ford Motor Co. But Ford, facing a financial mess, sold the luxury-car maker to a group of investors.

Ford later sold off other European luxury brands (Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo) while it got its financial house in order. Land Rover and Jaguar, under their current owners, India’s Tata, also supply vehicles to Bond films.

Aston Martin still is going it alone. One of its intangible assets is its image thanks to the Bond films. But that only goes so far.

In 2014, Adweek wrote about how Bond doesn’t translate directly into sales. In 2016, Aston executives told MarketingWeek the company was relying too much on Bond and needed to diversify.

Now, it’s 2019 and things haven’t changed much. Aston Martin is building 25 DB5 replicas with gadgets for $3.5 million each (or so). The company is tethered to Bond more than ever.

Multiple Aston models — past and present — will be included in No Time to Die. One will be the DB5 that was first seen in 1964’s Goldfinger. Except, it’s not a real DB5. It’s a replica with a carbon fiber body and a BMW engine.

Real life has a way of intruding on the fantasy.

Prince Charles picks up some Bond 25 secrets

Eon’s Bond 25 logo

At most mild spoilers, but go away if you’re spoiler adverse.

Bond 25 got a lot of publicity when Prince Charles visited Pinewood Studios today. In return, the Prince of Wales was briefed on some Bond 25 secrets.

5 News posted more than 20 minutes of video from the prince’s visit. The audio wasn’t the best but you pick up some of what he was told about.

Alterations to the Aston Martin DB5: Daniel Craig showed the prince a DB5 that was on display. Well, it turned out there was more than met the eye.

“Underneath here…is a BMW engine on a modern chassis, modern suspension,” Craig tells the prince. “We’ve had five of these made. This is carbon fiber.”

A tiny bit of plot: Ralph Fiennes, who plays M for the third time, talked to the prince about a scene filmed earlier in the day at the M office set.

“So what have you been doing today?” Charles asked.

“We’ve been giving him a hard time,” Fiennes responded.

“Oh really? Again?”

“Again, yeah. And he’s been giving me a hard time.”

“But I thought he was meant to be in retirement or something,” Charles replies.

Daniel Craig interjects at this point. “That’s right. But something drags me back in.”

“What the dreaded Felix Leiter?” the prince asks.

“Felix and the plot,” Craig answers.

Bond 25’s progress: Prince Charles asks if filming is about half complete. Craig answers that it’s about a third done.

Ralph Fiennes’ schedule: The actor tells the prince he works sporadically on Bond 25, mixing it with other acting commitments and an upcoming holiday. “I come in and out..My scenes are scheduled in bits.”

“He’s very busy, you see,” Craig tells Charles. “We’re very lucky to have him.”

After this, Prince Charles was taken to view some of the day’s footage of Craig in M’s office. It’s shown on video screens. He listens, holding up a headset to his right ear.

The video is below.

How British are Jaguar and Land Rover?

A publication called Car magazine has a story about how the Land Rover Defender will appear in Skyfall. Here’s a passage:

Land Rover Defender

(Skyfall co-producer Andrew) Noakes says the production company, EON, is delighted with the support of Jaguar-Land Rover. ‘The films may be made with American money and producers, but James Bond is British and we try to make associations with British companies. Land Rover is one of the oldest and most well-known. We’ve had offers from other companies but we’d prefer not to take James Bond out of a British environment.’

It’d probably be more accurate to call Jaguar-Land Rover a British subsidiary of an Indian company. The brands are owned by Mumbai, India-based Tata Motors Ltd., which acquired them in 2008. Jaguar hasn’t been British *owned* since 1989, when it was acquired by Ford Motor Co. Land Rover hasn’t been British owned since it was bought by Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, better known as BMW, in 1994. BMW sold Land Rover to Ford in 2000. Ford sold both brands to Tata four years ago.

While they still emphasize their British heritage, Jaguar and Land Rover aren’t really part of a British company. Models are still made in the U.K. (though Motor Trend wrote last month the Defender may be built in India.)

Then again, the literary Bond preferred Bentley, a brand that has been owned by Volkswagen AG since 1998.

A decade ago, Ford had a product placement deal with Eon Productions where Die Another Day would feature the European luxury brands the U.S. company then owned, including Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin. Die Another Day also included a Ford Thunderbird (since discontinued) which was driven briefly by Jinx (Halle Berry). Prior to that, BMW had provided cars for Bond in Pierce Brosnan’s first three 007 films.

In 2006’s Casino Royale, a Ford Mondeo, a model sold in Europe and not the U.S., appeared as did an Aston Martin model, both driven by Daniel Craig. Ford sold off Aston the following year. Ford models appeared in 2008’s Quantum of Solace. Skyfall is emphasizing Tata’s U.K. models and the nearly half-century-old Aston Martin DB5, which originally appeared in Goldfinger. The DB5 has been making appearances periodically in the series since 1995’s GoldenEye (including Casino Royale, as a car Bond wins in a poker game).

A brief (incomplete) 007 product placement history

So, Bond 23 will have a record amount of product placement, according to the Sunday Times. Agent 007 isn’t exactly a virgin when it comes to the subject.

In Bond’s debut film adventure, you could see Smirnoff vodka and Red Stripe beer. Then again, Dr. No only had a $1 million budget and was modestly budgeted. The brand name referneces reflected what you’d see in a James Bond novel by Ian Fleming.

Things picked up with the third 007 film, Goldfinger. There were vehicles from Ford Motor Co. (Tilly’s Mustang, Felix Leiter’s Thunderbird, the Ford trucks in Goldfinger’s convoy going to Fort Knox and the Lincoln Continental where gangster Mr. Solo had his “pressing engagement”). Not to mention Gillette shaving products and Kentucky Fried Chicken, evidently Felix’s favorite fast food place while maintaining survellence on criminal masterminds. The film’s director, Guy Hamilton, had this to say to film historian Adrian Turner:

I used to get a little bit angry when Harry (Saltzman) used to come on the set. In the plane scene with Pussy Galore, when Bond haves, the whole thing was a Gillette exercise. You never saw anything like it. There was Gillette foam, Gillette aftershave…I said, ‘Harry what are you doing? It’s eight in the morning, the crew haven’t arrived and your’e dressing a set?’ He’d done a deal with Gillette and we were going to get sixpence to use their stuff.”
(Adrian Turner on Goldfinger, 1998, pages 158-59)

With Thunderball, Ford was even more out in force: Fiona Volpe’s Mustang, not one but two Lincoln Continentals and Count Lippe’s aging Ford Fairlane. Ford did a promotional film, “How to Blow Up a Motor Car,” and Henry Ford II, then the CEO of Ford had a cameo in the movie. For You Only Live Twice, Japanese financial titans had an impact, including television monitors by Sony and Aki’s Toyota (not orignally a convertible but it was transformed into one).

Ford was back in Oh Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Tracy’s Mercury Cougar) and Diamonds Are Forever (Tiffany Case’s Mustang that Bond drove to great effect). GM managed to get its Chevrolet division as the primary auto supplier for Live And Let Die but it appears only one type of model could be supplied. The Man With The Golden Gun had the only 007 appearance for American Motors (later absorbed by Chrysler).

Moonraker is remembered by some fans for excessive product placement. A long Rio sequence has multiple referneces to 7 Up, British Airways and Marlboro cigarettes (including the use of Elmer Bernstein’s theme for The Magnifcent Seven, which Marlboro would use for television commercials in the 1960s). United Artists initially hoped to make the movie for $20 million. The budget came in closer to $35 million, so it’s not much of a stretch to speculate the product placement was a way of finding alternative sources of funding.

Three Pierce Brosnan 007 films (GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough) featured BMW cars.

But Ford once again entered the world of 007. For 2002’s Die Another Day. At that time, Ford had a collection of European luxury brands (including Aston Martin, a long-time 007 favorite), so DAD was a way to promote all of the brands, including a Land Rover SUV that took villain Gustav Graves to Buckingham Palace. Ford even managed to get in a couple of shots of its then-new Thunderbird two-seat car driven by U.S. agent Jinx (Halle Berry) to a big party given by Graves.

The Daniel Craig era has again seen Aston Martin make a splash and Omega watches even got mentioned in a dramatic scene between Bond and Vesper Lynd (Eva Green).

The Sunday Times reported that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony, which are co-financiing Bond 23, want to generate $45 million, or about a third, of Bond 23’s production budget from product placement fees. We’ll see how it goes. The Bond 23 filmmakers will probably get the money. The question is how obvious the product placement will be.