Based in Northern Italy, ARES Design Modena is a luxury automotive atelier specialising in bespoke engineering, and the design and interior modification of high-performance cars. Simon Wittenberg caught up Dany Bahar, the brainchild of the business, to find out more.
Luxurious Magazine: What are your career highlights to date?
Dany Bahar: I wouldn’t say there was one particular highlight. Conversely, I’d say my highlights are the mistakes I’ve made and learnings from them. I have been learning from my early career to my time at Red Bull, Ferrari, Lotus, and now at ARES. At the end of the day, the highlights for me would always be doing better and the enjoyment of doing what I do.
LM: Why did you decide to establish ARES Design, what is the meaning behind the name, and why did you choose the ancient Greek god of war’s helmet for your logo?
Dany Bahar: After working at Lotus, some colleagues and my long-term business partner Waleed Al-Ghafari decided to work on a project for ourselves, rather than working for a large corporation again. So, we set out to do something very particular – to cater to individuals that require the ultimate in bespoke vehicles.
This was an area that we felt was not properly addressed by the OEMs, and never would be for many reasons, such as production processes, procedure restrictions and costs etc.
Therefore, we thought that a small, flexible and dynamic company which could take into consideration the sophisticated needs of high-level clientele, who had already seen and experienced everything in car design, would give us a really unique market offering and positioning, which would ultimately translate into a business.
And that was six years ago, and today we are a company with around 150 people, generating €30 million in turnover per annum, and growing year-on-year by 20%.
In fact, the name ARES Design followed the logo. We thought that, by creating such a company, it would cause disruption in the market, and so firstly, we chose the helmet to protect ourselves! It was as simple as that. The next logical step was for us to find a name that was associated with the helmet, and we found it in ARES, which stems from Greek mythology – the god of war!
LM: What was the rationale for choosing the outskirts of Modena as the location for your headquarters?
Dany Bahar: It was a very egotistical reason. My colleagues and I had lived in the region before and were used to it; we knew the people and suppliers, which ultimately provided us with a head start to set up our operations in Modena. It saved us time, and we were looking at a similar area in Stuttgart, Germany, but it would have taken us too long to establish ourselves.
Also, when producing luxury products, it’s nice to have the ‘Made in Italy’ tag as well, and we definitely made the right choice. Modena is still an excellent region for automotive production, and this is why Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Lamborghini and a big eco supplier system are still based here.
LM: What are ARES Design’s USPs when comparing your business with the competition?
Dany Bahar: We have many competitors, and what we do is nothing new. Coachbuilding has been done for the past 100 years or so. I believe we have lots of small competitors who have decided to do one car and one model, with a workforce of about 20 to 50 people, and who commercialise it as much as possible. But, where I think we differ is how we operate, and the direction in which the company is going. Ultimately, we will be an independent small car manufacturer one day.
At ARES Design, we undertake all the necessary steps to design, develop and manufacture a car in-house with a workforce of 150 people in a 23,000 square-metre facility. As yet, I am not aware of any competitor in the coachbuilding scene operating on that scale or with the same objectives. I believe we are unique in that sense.
So, there are competitors from a product perspective, but not from a company point of view. However, this could change over time, and maybe tomorrow we will have one!
LM: You are about to secure your final round of funding, taking investment in your business to €60 million. Will you be using this money to expand into other markets, such as China and the US?
Dany Bahar: Yes. Absolutely. The final step of expansion is going into the two biggest markets, the USA and Asia, which are alongside investments into the expansion of our product line-up and factory.
We are using our investment, as we have done in the past, in three main areas: product development, factory expansion – buildings, assembly space, machinery, tooling and technology, which will enable us to be in line with homologation and legal requirements, and thirdly, distribution – opening showrooms.
ARES doesn’t have an independently financed dealer network. We have our own showrooms, so that way we can ensure that the customer has a full and exceptional experience. This spans from the design and manufacturing in Italy, through to the delivery of their vehicle anywhere in the world.
We have a very big expansion plan in the next 24 months; we are going to open showrooms in central Europe, Germany, Switzerland, the UK and Monaco, followed by the US, and we also have a very detailed plan for China.
LM: Who is your target audience, and do your customers come from across the globe?
Dany Bahar: Ironically, our leading customer group to date is mainly Europeans or customers that keep their cars in Europe; not necessarily just Europeans, but this will no doubt change as we expand into new territories.
Where our price point is set, upwards of €500,000, we fit within the affordable luxury bracket, and therefore our products are not just for the super-rich. We have a lot of customers who are successful lawyers, managers, and of course, entrepreneurs. In part, this is why we want to keep this honest pricing position, so our cars are affordable to not only the very rich but are also accessible to wider affluent groups and lucky individuals.
LM: Are the possibilities endless when a client approaches you to customise a car, or is there a limit to what can be realistically achieved?
Dany Bahar: No. Of course, there are limits; these are set by homologation, safety and technical regulations, which differ from country to country. But, from a creative point of view, the possibilities are endless.
This is where ARES’ main USP lies compared to other OEMs: we do not have to consider existing manufacturing processes and procedures or the use of common parts of existing cars – we can create a product from scratch in order to satisfy the customers’ needs. As long as they don’t have any technical or legal limitations, the sky’s the limit!
LM: What impact has the Coronavirus had on your business, and how have you had to adapt it to keep clients and staff safe?
Dany Bahar: When we returned to work last month, we were down about 30% on our annual productivity, but we will have recovered this deficit by the end of August. Obviously, our employees’ health is the priority, and we implemented wide-ranging measures to ensure their wellbeing.
These include, amongst others, temperatures being taken on arrival to work, the wearing of masks and gloves, limited personnel in communal areas, the regular sanitisation of workspaces, highlighted routes, and dedicated entry and exit points to the building. We are now getting used to the new working environment, and we all just pleased to be back at work.
LM: The Panther ProgettoUno was the first model to emerge from your Legends Reborn programme. What can we expect next?
Dany Bahar: ARES is at a very important phase of its young age. We need to remember we are only five years old and are still a baby company learning to walk. What we can see in this short time is that, due to the customers’ demands, ARES’ products groups have changed and evolved more and more; from taking inspiration from iconic cars of the past to having its own identity for future products.
The company will shortly be revealing its very first “own design” supercar, which will appeal to many people we hope. We are moving in the direction of becoming a small car manufacturer with our own design identity, but notwithstanding that, we will always know where we have evolved from and have respect for our Legends Reborn programme.
LM: How would you define luxury, and what are your luxuries in life?
Dany Bahar: There are two types of luxury in life, which are namely a luxury lifestyle and personal luxury. From a professional standpoint, luxury to me is represented by goods and the privilege to be able to purchase those goods and to live a certain lifestyle. Personally, for me, in the last three years, and probably the next two, it is simply ‘time’. Time is always the luxury I am chasing, and I am still one step behind. However, I’m confident I’ll get there in the end!
LM: Thank you for your time Dany, and it has been a pleasure talking to you.
ARES Design Modena – Where and How?
For more information on ARES Design Modena and to contact Dany Bahar, visit www.aresdesign.com.
Read more exclusive interviews in our dedicated section here.