Aston Martin is aiming to double sales by 2016 with new models and an expansion of its dealer network outside Europe. The British maker of sports cars featured in James Bond movies may then invest in a sport-utility vehicle to broaden its appeal to wealthy drivers.

The supercar producer plans to appoint a new chief executive officer in the next three months, while CEO Ulrich Bez, who has led Aston since 2000, will probably become a non-executive chairman, according to a person with direct knowledge of the talks, who asked not to be identified as the matter is private. Aston Martin has several candidates for the post, the person said. A company representative declined to comment.

Aston Martin is the only global luxury-auto producer that doesn’t belong to a larger manufacturing group. Following London-based investment firm Investindustrial’s purchase of a 37.5 percent stake late last year, the carmaker laid out plans in January to spend 500 million pounds ($785 million) on expansion in the next four years to challenge Volkswagen AG (VOW)’s Bentley and Fiat SpA (F)’s Ferrari and Maserati.

Investindustrial Chairman Andrea Bonomi has said he wants to expand Aston’s line-up while establishing partnerships to limit the cost of developing models. The U.K. carmaker signed a deal in July to obtain engines from the AMG high-performance division of Daimler AG (DAI), the owner of the Mercedes-Benz luxury-car brand. Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler will receive a 5 percent stake in Aston over time, depending on the progress of their technical partnership.

Bond Boost

Aston has a target of boosting annual sales to about 7,000 vehicles in 2016 from about 3,400 cars in 2012, with growth propelled by catering to growing demand in Asia, North and South America, said the person. The carmaker may then develop, as a second part of its expansion plan, an SUV designed to attract wealthy drivers, the person said.

Investindustrial may boost its holding in Aston Martin in coming years with a capital increase needed to invest in new projects, such as the SUV, they said.

“Aston Martin, which now has such a considerable partner as Daimler, has a lot of cachet related to James Bond movies which hasn’t been fully exploited, so it could find its space in the growing luxury SUV market” said Ian Fletcher, an analyst at IHS Automotive in London. IHS estimates Aston may double annual sales to 7,530 cars in 2017, helped by new V8-engine versions of the Vantage and DB9 models. The prediction excludes an SUV.

Supercar SUVs

Fiat’s Maserati and VW’s Bentley are among supercar makers developing SUVs to expand in the U.S and emerging markets such as China and Russia, where there’s a growing class of wealthy consumers. Longer driving distances and larger areas of undeveloped land also make SUVs popular in all three countries.

Investindustrial, which also sold Italian motorcycle maker Ducati to Volkswagen’s Audi division in mid-2012, completed the 190 million-euro purchase of the Aston stake in May, and gained management control of the carmaker, which is celebrating its centennial this year. Bonomi pledged in January to remain an Aston Martin shareholder for at least 10 years.

Aston Martin’s other shareholders are Kuwaiti companies Investment Dar and Adeem Investment Co., which bought the U.K. carmaker in 2007 from Ford Motor Co., the manufacturer’s owner for 20 years.

(Source: Bloomberg)