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Aston Martin gets in touch with its feminine side for first SUV

LONDON/ BEIJING (Reuters) - James Bond’s carmaker of choice Aston Martin took a first step into the lucrative SUV market on Wednesday with an eye on winning female customers, hoping it can dig itself out of a financial black hole.

Whilst around 10% of the buyers of its signature line-up of sports cars, including the six-figure sum DB11 and Vantage models, are women, half of its customers in China are female, where the firm chose to launch its sport utility vehicle (SUV), the DBX.

“That’s something we aspire to elsewhere,” Chief Executive Andy Palmer told Reuters.

“Aston is cool but if you can make it cool amongst both male and female, that makes it very, very powerful,” he said.

Aston is trying hard to turn around its performance and winning new customers will be key to its success.

The firm’s share price has plunged this year as sales underperformed after a stock market flotation and the global automotive industry has had a torrid year.

The profile of Aston Martin’s target customer for its first SUV is a 40-something West Coast entrepreneur with children, called “Charlotte”.

The 106-year old firm used an all-female advisory body to help design many of the features in the new vehicle which include greater leg room and a smaller reach to the controls, Palmer said.

“We had in mind this car must fit female customers’ needs,” he said.

The company hopes to boost its current annual sales of around 6,000 sports cars this year with up to 5,000 SUVs, which will enter production next year at a new factory in Wales.

Aston Martin’s sales have been hit most recently by falling demand in Europe and for its Vantage model.

The wider car market has been affected by declining sales in China, trade war worries between the world’s two biggest economies, a slump in diesel sales in Europe and the need to invest heavily in electrification.

By switching its focus to “Charlotte” for this model, the central England-based company hopes its new DBX, priced at 158,000 pounds ($204,000) in Britain will improve its fortunes.

The carmaker has gone bankrupt seven times in its history and has seen its share price plunge by around 75% since listing on the London Stock Exchange in October last year. So far this year, it is making a loss.

($1 = 0.7754 pounds)

Writing by Costas Pitas in London; editing by Stephen Addison and Elaine Hardcastle