Chairman and Chief Executive
Dr. Bez, with more than 30 years experience in the motor industry, is one of the world’s foremost and innovative automotive engineers and strategists with worldwide experience of the design and manufacture of cars. He has been responsible for product design and development at Porsche, BMW and Daewoo. Previous to his joining Aston Martin he was a business adviser to Ford Motor Company in the United States.
Since joining Aston Martin he has led the regeneration of the marque with new facilities including new world headquarters, 125 dealers worldwide and a new corporate identity. In 2007, Aston Martin was sold by Ford and he has committed to the next five years as Chief Executive Officer of Aston Martin.
He is also an extremely skilled test and development driver with wide experience of racing and sports cars. We caught up with this fast moving leader at the recent L. A. auto show and spoke with him about the state of the luxury auto industry.
ET: What brought you to the automotive industry and to performance cars and Aston Martin?
Ulrich Bez: I actually studied aircraft engineering, and I didn’t know what to do with that degree. I felt that the aircraft industry was probably not right for me, so I looked for something close to flying: Sports cars. I went to Porsche and asked them for a job and have stayed in auto industry ever since. Porsche to BMW to Porsche again, this time in Korea. I joined Aston Martin as CEO in 2000.
ET: Were you a fan of Aston Martin from a James Bond point of view? Were you aware of the brand in that light?
Ulrich Bez: No, I can’t really say that I was. But before I joined the company, I had never driven an Aston Martin or even been interested in the car simply because I didn’t feel that these cars were anywhere close to being competitive to a Porsche or a BMW.
ET: So you joined the company to introduce high-caliber performance to the cars?
Ulrich Bez: Not just performance. I felt that Aston Martin was a sleeping brand with a terrific heritage and appeal that just wasn’t showing up in the cars themselves. I felt that if I could bring substance to this brand that I’ve always been fascinating by, it would succeed. If they gave me five years time, I would develop this brand into what it deserves to be.
ET: What is your forecast for Aston Martin economically?
Ulrich Bez: think the situation is a very difficult one, and everybody in this industry is obviously affected. The auto industry is feeling especially pinched by the financal crisis, even though this crisis didn’t start with us. As a result we are seeing a hesitation in buying cars, and we will reduce our volumes for this year. But we are a small company, we are a fast company, we are a lean company, we have great products, and we will have great products that will be launched next year. And so I am quite optimistic that we can come through this crisis with even more stability. It’s a time when small companies can really utilize their survival instincts.
ET: Do you think you’re getting a different customer now than the company was 10 years ago?
Ulrich Bez: I think in the past we had customers who were enamored of Aston Martin’s history but customers looking for reliable, great performing cars sometimes looked to other brands. This has changed now. We can go head-to-head with all the competition in performance, and we definitely lead in design and in style. If someone is looking for that perfect mix of performance and style, they come to us.
ET: I think I caught a glimpse of you in a scene in Quantum of Solace? Are you more of a James Bond fan now that you’ve been in a James Bond movie?
Ulrich Bez: Yes, I’m thinking about a second career in the film industry. I mean, I was not killed off, so there’s some hope I could be a recurring character.