Aston Martin is the first brand sold by Ford since it announced a plan to revamp operations, called 'the way forward' last year. Ford, the second-largest American automaker behind General Motors, lost $12.7 billion in 2006.
The divestment is in line with Ford Motor Co's strategy to restructure, operate profitably at lower volumes and change its automobile model mix. The company expects the deal to be completed during the second quarter of 2007. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals.
The deal allows Ford to raise a significant amount of money for its restructuring effort, yet maintain its ties with the brand. It also returns Aston Martin to British ownership at a time when other legendary British car brands have fallen into foreign hands.
Ford, which put Aston Martin up for sale last August, will retain a 15 per cent stake in the marque, sources said.
The Aston Martin deal could clear the way for Ford to sell its other British brands, like Jaguar and Land Rover, even though Ford, based in Dearborn, Michigan, has said it is not interested the sale of these models.
The principal buyer, David Richards, is the chief executive of Prodrive, a motor sport and automotive technology company based in Banbury, England. Prodrive helped develop Aston Martin's racing programme starting in 2004. Prodrive is scheduled to enter Formula One racing in 2008. The two Kuwaiti companies that joined Richards in bidding for Aston Martin are Adeem Investment and the Investment Dar Company.
Aston Martin has nearly 100 dealers worldwide and sells three models - the $110,000 V8 Vantage, the $165,000 DB9 and the $260,000 V12 Vanquish. It will soon begin production of a fourth model, the $250,000 DBS, which was used in the latest James Bond thriller, 'Casino Royale'.
Aston Martin's 2006 sales rose by about 50 per cent, to 6,500 vehicles. However, the Premier Automotive Group which makes Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo, lost $327 million.