Silver screen to stocks: Five things about Aston Martin

3 min

London (AFP)

British sports car manufacturer Aston Martin became a popular legend thanks to James Bond films, and it went public Wednesday with a market valuation of £4.3 billion ($5.6-billion, 4.9-billion euros).

Here are highlights from the company's century-long history.

- James Bond's car in Goldfinger -

From Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, many of the celebrated secret agent's most notable actors have driven an Aston Martin.

The story began with 1964's "Goldfinger," when Scottish actor Connery drove a grey DB5 equipped with an ejector seat ingeniously triggered by a button in the gear knob.

The historic model made a series of return cameos, including in 1995's "GoldenEye" and in the final scene of the most recent instalment "Spectre", when Daniel Craig drove through the streets of London.

Aston Martins have featured in 11 instalments of the series since their 1964 debut.

- British owned -

Aston Martin was one of the most highly-anticipated deals on the London Stock Exchange this year.

Other emblematic British automotive brands now belong to major international groups, such as Rolls-Royce -- held by BMW -- Vauxhall -- owned by PSA of France, and Jaguar Land Rover -- which was bought by India's Tata Motors.

Aston Martin was once part of the Ford group, but is now again British-owned and produces exclusively on English soil, with an average model costing 190,000 euros ($220,000).

It is the only automotive group currently listed on the London Stock Exchange.

- Conquering China -

Aston Martin said in February that it wanted to strengthen its presence in China by investing more than 20 million euros to double its dealer network, from 10 to 20.

Its DB11 coupe is very popular in China, where the British group saw sales jump by 89 percent last year.

The company is preparing to launch next year its first urban 4x4 (SUV), a type of vehicle that is particularly popular with Chinese customers.

- A future in F1? -

Since the 1930s, Aston Martin has favoured endurance races, notably winning the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1959 with a DBR1/300.

It then tried to crack Formula 1, but failed despite having the experienced Maurice Trintignant -- uncle of French actor Jean-Louis -- behind the wheel in 1960.

The team only competed in five Grand Prix races during two seasons, and scored no points.

But it is already a partner of the Red Bull team and could return to the paddocks as an engine manufacturer after 2020.

- Celebrity favourite -

Football icon David Beckham was this year photographed driving the streets of London behind the wheel of the legendary DB5, while former team-mate Wayne Rooney and Spain striker Fernando Torres were snapped in the more modern Vanquish and DB9 models.

And footballers are not the only ones with tastes for expensive British cars.

A rare V8 Vantage that belonged to Elton John was auctioned off in February and a 1985 Lagonda that boasted a bar and television with a video recorder was sold four years ago at auction for 43,500 euros in Lyon.

The car's former owner was Omar Bongo, the president of Gabon from 1967 to 2009.