Aston Martin Poaches Bentley Boss

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Aston Martin Poaches Bentley BossBentley

We don’t report extensively on the arrivals, departures and defections of the auto industry’s C-suite executives. But this is a development interesting enough to break that rule, with news that Aston Martin has poached Bentley’s CEO, Adrian Hallmark, the 61-year old set to take up his new role later this year. By the standards of Britain’s luxury sportscar makers that’s pretty much like leaving Manchester United to join Manchester City.

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Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark set to leave to take role of Aston Martin CEOBentley Motors

While news of Hallmark’s defection is not a surprise - he is a hugely experienced executive who has led Bentley to unprecedented success - the timing seems strange. It is less than a week since Hallmark hosted a press conference for Bentley at which he talked extensively about strategy for his soon-to-be-former employer, including the admission that Bentley’s EV-only deadline is set to slip. (That's the Bentley EXP 100 GT pictured at the top of this article, an all-electric concept car meant to celebrate the company's centenary in 2019 and preview Bentley's future.) It is unusual that a company boss was talking about deep future plans immediately before jumping ship to a major rival; it will be interesting to see if Hallmark’s replacement at Bentley follows the same path.

Hallmark is also leaving a very secure role for one that has proved to be a corporate ejector seat. He will become Aston’s fifth CEO in the space of just over 10 years, and its fourth in four. Hallmark will replace Amadeo Felisa, the former Ferrari boss who was appointed in 2022 when ex-AMG boss Tobias Moers was dropped after reportedly falling out with Aston’s executive chairman (and part-owner) Lawrence Stroll. Now approaching his 78th birthday, Felisa was never likely to be at Aston for the long haul. He will remain CEO until Hallmark, who is now on ‘garden leave’ from Bentley, takes over in October.

Hallmark won’t be short of challenges. Aston’s products have been getting better, the new DB12 being a huge improvement over the closely related DB11 it replaced, but sales numbers remain well behind those of rivals. Aston sold 6620 cars worldwide in 2023 - close to the all-time peak of 6850 cars it managed in 2007. But that puts it close to the bottom of the ultra-luxury segment, with Ferrari selling 13,663 in the same period, Bentley 13,560, Lamborghini 10,112 and even the supposedly more exclusive Rolls-Royce getting close with 6032 units.

Aston has technology sharing agreements with Mercedes - which supplies AMG V-8 engines - and EV maker Lucid, which is set to collaborate with Aston to help create the British company’s forthcoming range of fully electric models - the first of which is due as soon as 2026. The company is also working on a plug-in hybrid version of the DBX SUV. Even more engineering resource is being put into the creation of a mid-engined supercar, the forthcoming Valhalla, which has been significantly delayed but which will combine AMG V8 power with hybrid assistance and an electrically powered front axle.

Aston’s ownership remains complicated, too. Both Mercedes and Lucid own small stakes in the company, but the biggest stockholders are Stroll’s Yew Tree consortium, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and Chinese automaker Geely Group. Investor relations will require some high-level diplomatic skills. And Aston still has an ongoing legal battle with Swiss-based dealer group St. Gallen over money gathered from deposits place for the Aston Martin Valkyrie.

The next question is who will replace Hallmark at Bentley? Could it be one of his predecessors at Aston?

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