Aston Martin, Ford’s UK-based luxury sports car maker, is expected this year to make an operating profit for the first time in its 90-year history.

Aston Martin North America vice-president and general manager John Walton told the Financial Times (FT) the achievement was possible in spite of this year’s steep decline in the value of the dollar.

The FT noted that Aston Martin, part of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group portfolio of luxury vehicle brands, which includes Jaguar, has suffered because its manufacturing operations are UK-based and the weak dollar has made US sales less profitable.

Walton told the newspaper in an interview: “Our commitment to Ford was that for the first time in our history we will make a profit this year, and we are going to make it.”

Walton reportedly said the US overtook the UK as Aston Martin’s largest market for the first time last year and there were no plans to “throttle back on production” because of the weak dollar.

“America is the biggest sports car market in the world and it’s by design that we’re increasing our dealer network here. The alternative would be to back away and it would ruin the investment we’ve made,” he told the Financial Times.

The FT noted that the disclosure came as Aston Martin this month started sales in Europe of the DB9, a new, six-litre sports car with a top speed of 186 miles per hour – US sales of the $US155,000 vehicle start in September, with more than half of the annual production of 2,000 cars expected to be sold in the US.

The paper added that, early next year, Aston Martin will unveil the AMV8, a $100,000 sports car.

The two new vehicles, together with the Vanquish “super car” in production since 2000, are part of a plan to boost worldwide sales to 5,500 cars by 2006, from 1,500 in 2003, Walton told the FT.

The paper said Aston Martin’s expansion comes as competition is intensifying between luxury car makers, such as Ferrari, Bentley and Porsche.

Walton told the FT that achieving the 2006 sales target would “make us twice as big as Ferrari” and that Aston Martin’s volume ambitions were “wholly achievable with a three-car line-up”.

But he reportedly said: “If you add up what everybody’s planning to do, divided by the amount of people who buy at that level, somebody’s going to have a shortfall.”

The Financial Times said the DB9 is the first of a new generation of Aston Martin vehicles built at a new plant in Warwickshire in England where the company has invested heavily in new technology for the car, whose body is bonded, rather than bolted, to its chassis in a procedure borrowed from the aircraft industry.

Walton reportedly said technology used by Aston Martin could eventually be used in other Ford vehicles.