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The production lines at Aston Martin’s new plant in St Athan, Wales, are now under construction, laying the groundwork for the manufacturer to launch its new DBX crossover in 2019.
The plant’s construction is said to be well into its second phase. The offices, reception area and staff restaurant are already complete, so now the ex-Ministry of Defence site’s three super-hangars are being converted into a modern production facility in time for the DBX’s launch. The first development prototypes are due to be built before the end of 2018.
Entering the world’s fastest growing segment, the DBX (pictured below in the middle) has massive potential to expand Aston Martin’s sales and enable it to tap into new markets. It will be the first of Aston Martin’s seven planned new models, which are being developed to build on the British firm’s recent sales success, which resulted in it hitting a nine-year high in 2017.
As such, the St Athan site will play a significant role in growing Aston Martin production numbers. It will also be a key location in developing Aston Martin’s electric and hybrid models, the first of which, the RapidE, is also due in 2019.
St Athan will employ 750 workers, who were selected from 3000 applicants at a recruitment event in 2016. Like Aston Martin’s existing Gaydon plant, St Athan was formerly occupied by the Royal Air Force (RAF).
Aston Martin chief executive Andy Palmer said: “The St Athan facility is really starting to take shape. With the completion of this first phase, it is another milestone on our journey in Wales, and an important part of Aston Martin’s Second Century Plan.
“Work is also well underway on phase two. The Aston Martin team and I are excited for when St Athan joins our Gaydon and Newport Pagnell facilities as a centre of hand-crafted manufacturing excellence.”
Palmer previously said that there will be some overlap between activities at the company’s sites: “If we’re already making components in Gaydon that are needed in St Athan there seems little point tooling up all over again. Likewise, work done in St Athan, particularly in areas such as electrification, will clearly have its applications in Gaydon.
“But, in principle, I like the idea of having two competing plants, particularly as one is in England and the other in Wales. It promotes healthy competition and each will drag the other up.”
In August 2017 Aston Martin hired ex-Maserati and Ferrari engine boss Joerg Ross to be its new chief engineer for powertrains – a move which came as part of its push towards electrification.
“We will have an engineering centre [at St Athan], it is also likely to be where we do the bulk of our electrification work,” said Palmer following Ross’s arrival. “Also, we will have our cyber security department here. All the talk these days is of autonomous drive but very few people are talking about how to make sure these cars cannot be hacked, and in many ways that’s a more difficult challenge than autonomy. But until the cars are secure, they cannot be autonomous.”
Some of the future St Athan employees are currently being trained at Aston’s Gaydon plant while working on the DB11, while another 250 jobs are being created at Gaydon. Aston claims that 1000 jobs in total will be created from its current expansion plan.
Palmer said: “Due to its sheer size and scale, the St Athan super hangars represented an excellent opportunity for us to build our second manufacturing facility, within the envelope of an existing structure. It is perhaps fitting that St Athan is, like our headquarters and sports car factory at Gaydon, a former RAF base. We have three hangars; one will handle the body in white, one will be the paint shop and one will look after trim and final assembly.”
Aston recently launched the latest Vantage, will introduce a new Vanquish this year, while the DBX in will come in 2019 and a mid-engined sports car is due in 2020. After that, new Lagondas are set to arrive in 2021 and 2022.
Jimi Beckwith and Andrew Frankel