It is hardly surprising that Moody's Investors Service has things under review as Aston runs through cash reserves. Moody's analyst Falk Frey: "The review was prompted by a significant deterioration in Aston Martin's liquidity profile as per end September 2012, caused by a much weaker cash generation and operating performance in the third quarter."
Aston has been on the brink of failure before. Its founders of 1914, Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford set up in 1922, yet were forced to wind it up in 1925. It was only Aston’s racing that sustained it under AC Bertelli and then RG Sutherland, until 1948 when it was taken over by David Brown. He had just bought Lagonda, which made available a twin overhead cam 2.5litre engine designed by WO Bentley.
Once again racing was a key and the Claud Hill-designed, essentially pre-war 2litre, driven by St John Horsfall won its class in the 1946 Belgian Grand Prix. A new car with independent front suspension and open bodywork with separate wings was built quickly for Horsfall and Leslie Johnson to win the Spa 24 hours’ race. Encouraged, the new owner embarked on a programme of racing and a range of great sports and GT cars.
Curtis had plans to buy MG, and a prototype Aston-MG was built, but MG Rover would not relinquish the title.
In 1984 Titan, the Papanicolaou’s shipping company was in trouble, so Livanos's father George bought their shares in ALL, leaving Gauntlett once again a shareholder in Aston with 25 per cent. The company was valued at £2 million the year it built its 10,000th car.
The irrepressible Gauntlett bought a stake in Zagato, resurrecting its collaboration with Aston Martin while negotiating a return to the James Bond films. Producer Cubby Broccoli had recast Bond with actor Timothy Dalton, intending to bring Bond back closer to the original of Sean Connery. The great Gauntlett narrowly turned down the role of a KGB colonel in the film.
Sales prospered until a pressing need for investment in new models. It was time for another of the chance meetings of minds that punctuated Aston Martin history. In May 1987, Gauntlett and Prince Michael of Kent were guests of Contessa Maggi, wife of the founder of the Mille Miglia, revived as a classic event. Walter Hayes, vice-President of Ford of Europe was also a guest and although still smarting over Ford’s aborted negotiations to take over Brian Angliss’s AC Cars, Hayes knew the potential in a premium brand.
Ford took a shareholding in September 1987. After producing 5,000 cars in 20 years, the economy was improving, sales of limited edition Vantage, and £86,000 Volante Zagato coupes rose, the venerable V8 ceased and the Virage was introduced. Gauntlett remained chairman for two years while Hayes took stock, contriving an engineering rationale for a new, smaller Aston Martin. Ford took full control, Gauntlett handing over the chairmanship in 1991.
In 2003 Aston Martin moved to Gaydon and in 2004, set up a 12,500 sq m (135,000 sq ft) AMEP engine production plant within Ford Germany at Niehl, Cologne. This could produce 5000 engines a year but under pressure from America, Ford divested itself of the Premier Automotive Group, selling first Aston Martin, then Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo. UBS AG was appointed in August 2006 to sell Aston Martin by auction and on 12 March 2007 a consortium led by Prodrive chairman David Richards and co-owned by Investment Dar and businessman John Sinders, purchased it for £475m ($848m). Prodrive had no financial involvement and Ford kept a stake, valued at £40 million ($70 million).