Hi. My Name Is Charlotte.
I was having breakfast with Andy Palmer, the CEO of Aston Martin the
other day and he was explaining how Aston segments the design of new
vehicles to an ideal customer. They have modeled Vanquish, DB9, Rapide,
and Vantage “customers” by giving each a name and biography. The DBX
concept is the first vehicle Aston has explicitly designed for a woman –
Charlotte. She is in her mid 40s, is white, lives in California, and
since she is shopping for an Aston Martin, obviously successful.
However, I did not say she was buying a DBX.
That is what Aston Martin is trying to figure out, how to get women to
treat themselves by buying and driving an Aston Martin. Which is VERY
funny for someone like me.
As many of you know, I am thinking of having a midlife crisis and it may
involve an Aston Martin or an antique Jaguar – 1960 something E-Type,
definitely yellow. Andy was very clear that his cars are not for people
who are having a midlife crisis; they are for people who are passed
their crisis and are secure in who they are, where they are, and what
they have achieved in their lives thus far. I am not sure I fully agree
with Mr. Palmer, but I wasn’t going to pick an argument with him in
front of the entire audience at the Churchill Club gathering (unusual
for me, I know, but they managed to keep the microphone far away from me
at this particular event.)
Here is the really funny thing, I’ve been shopping for a DB9 lately,
used, of course, as I’m not that successful and married for love. And
despite my son reminding me that he does want to go to college and I
should pay for it (scholarship anyone?!) and my husband reminding me of
our impending kitchen remodel (housing appreciation?), I am very
seriously shopping. I find myself in long boring meetings wandering to
Aston Martin of Los Gatos and really exploring their inventory. I’ve
been reading endless reviews, speaking with current and former Aston
owners and really thinking deeply about total cost of ownership. I’ve
looked at insurance, thought of cleaning out the garage to actually
drive a vehicle into, I’ve been imagining myself driving a convertible
DB9 and asking myself if a white one would make me happy or should I go
Yet so far, every time I get really looking at a specific vehicle, I
reject it based on the tired map and obsolete navigation system. Am I
really going to spend $150,000 + on a car with such antiquated
I am not.
Andy made it clear that he views technology as a gimmick and the true
worth of an Aston was determined by the relationship between the driver
and the steering wheel. Yes. I get it. But I would not buy a DB9 or
DBX to race on a track. Nor am I seeking to be that asshole on the mean
streets of Menlo Park opening it up down Sand Hill Road. I sit in
traffic and drive on suburban roads most of the time and there are
enough douche bags in Porsches driving like they are on the track that I
do not have to join their ranks.
I am looking at buying an Aston Martin for more reasons than just the
V12 engine. Granted, the V12 is VERY ATTRACTIVE, but it’s a GT for the
goddess’ sake. It’s for touring which explicitly means comfort and
convenience to me.
Let’s be very clear about this – I use my navigation system all the
time. I have common destinations loaded into it’s memory, like the
Whole Foods in Palo Alto, which I like to frequent, but can never
remember where it is actually located or which street is one way and
which is the other way. I know, I know, I know I am an absolute
stereotype and cliché, but they must come from someone where and the
“directionally challenged chick” fits me like a velvet glove.
Apparently I do not have a hippocampus. When we first moved to Los
Angeles, I was so vexed by being constantly lost that I was convinced I
needed a compass to help me. Wrong. That experience was a disaster for
so many reasons one of which is LA is not really arranged true north to
south as much as it is east and north, maybe, I think…but I digress.
I use all mapping tools available. I check where I am going beforehand.
I double-check Google and Apple maps. I have been known to print out a
map and bring along hand written notes. I stop and ask people to make
sure I am heading in the right direction. Most people who know me,
describe me a confident woman. But not ever when it comes to
I use the primitive navigation system in my $20,000 VW. It is not a
great system by any stretch. It does not allow zooming, the streets are
consistently named, and it does not have live traffic, but I use it all
the time. Funny enough, the system’s deficiencies do not upset me. But
then again, I did not pay $200,000 for my VW. At the end of the day, a
marginal navigation system in my volume make is great. (This analysis
does not apply to my husband’s RDX. I want to SLAP whoever designed that
piece of shit. Rotary dial input my fat ass.)
Very seldom do I use my phone to navigate while I am driving. Mostly,
this is because I cannot see my phone without glasses and I don’t need
glasses to drive. Also, I refuse to use a phone holder stuck to my
windshield or hanging off my AC vents. I refuse to have cords dangling
around the cockpit. I am a touch on the fanatical fastidious side,
granted, but still…it is tacky to have those aftermarket hacks to use
your phone as a navigation device. I do love CarPlay and Android Auto
and want them to be a roaring success; I do not think they belong in
supercars. I agree with Mr. Palmer that some technology is a gimmick.
Oh, a high-end sound system is not a gimmick, not by a long shot. That
is a necessity.
At the end of the day, I absolutely must be able to update maps on a
$300,000 vehicle. I will not spend what little money I make or inherit
on a car with $100,000 plus price point that I cannot readily and easily
update. This is non-negotiable. Andy needs to pull his head out of the
back of his finely tailored suit and get on the stick. While I’m at it,
it is worth mentioning that Aston should be able to fix software bugs
remotely and add features remotely as well. The CEO of Aston did a lot
of Tesla bashing, especially around LUDICROUS mode, but he really should
look at what Mr. Musk’s fine employees have done on OTA and replicate
the best the parts. I can imagine that Mr. Palmer was posturing for a
very Telsa-loving Silicon Valley crowd, but I’m not sure. I do not care
about his announcement of an electric Rapide in 2019 at the Concours
d’Elegance. That did not impress me.
This Charlotte will only treat herself to a DB9 or DBX or whatever, once
the vehicle covers the basics and the basics include upgradable maps and
software and high-end sound system.