Aston Martin, the British car brand immortalised by the James Bond movies, is ramping up its efforts to grow sales in the Irish market.
Last week, Aston Martin dealer Charles Hurst opened a new €1.2m showroom in Belfast as it beefed up its sales efforts on the back of a recovering Irish economy.
One of the 10 Aston Martin DB10 cars specially created for the upcoming Spectre Bond movie was brought over for the launch. There are 350 new and used Aston Martin cars on the island of Ireland, of which 85pc are in Northern Ireland.
The firm will sell about 15 or 16 new cars in Ireland this year - with a price rising to €292,000 for the top-end Vanquish - with sales expected to rise next year.
Marcus Blake, Aston Martin's head of UK and South Africa, told the Sunday Independent: "The market is rising around the world, with sales up 10pc and luxury cars also up 10pc." He added that Aston Martin's growth is likely "to continue as new product comes on stream".
Aston Martin is set to launch the DB11 range next year, its first new core brand in a number of years. Charles Hurst's decision to invest in sales infrastructure is an indication that the market has real potential, Blake added.
The market in Northern Ireland is much stronger than the Republic for Aston Martins, primarily due to high VRT on southern imports, which Blake described as a "limiting factor". Most of the cars sold in the South are used, with ex-demo models particularly strong.
I drove close to €1m worth of Aston Martin cars on a 170-mile road trip in Northern Ireland last week - ranging from the top-of-the-range €292,000 Vanquish to the more basic but spectacularly fast €125,000 Vantage, the Rapide, a high-performance, four-seat sports saloon, and the DB9 GT.
They are jolly good fun and go cheek-rattlingly fast, with an enormously satisfying guttural roar. Aston Martin is a more understated brand than some of its racier rivals, such as Lamborghini or Ferrari, but they are still head-turners, as we brought Coleraine to a standstill zooming through the town last week.
The cars are pitched at "business owners" and "people who have made it", according to the sales team, although there is a major push to increase the number of women Aston Martin owners.
Currently, just 5pc of Aston Martin drivers are women. The Ferrari numbers are more stark, with less than 1pc of owners women. Around 20pc of Bentley owners are female.
Sunday Indo Business