Ex-Ministry of Defence site in Wales is into second phase of its conversion from three super-hangars into a manufacturing facility
3 August 2017

Work on Aston Martin’s new plant in St Athan, Wales, has now entered its second phase, meaning the brand is on course to convert the ex-Ministry of Defence site's three super-hangars into a production facility in time for production of its DBX SUV in 2019.

The factory will build the DBX, first seen at the 2015 Geneva motor show, from that year onwards. It is the first of Aston Martin’s seven planned new models.

The St Athan site will also play a significant role in developing Aston Martin's future electric and hybrid models, the first of which, the RapidE, is also due in 2019.

Read more: Production Aston Martin DBX previewed in new image

Local firm T. Richard Jones (TRJ) has been selected as a construction partner for the new Welsh site's following building phase. St Athan will employ 750 workers, who were selected from 3000 applicants at a recruitment event last year. Like Aston Martin's existing Gaydon plant, St Athan was formerly occupied by the Royal Air Force (RAF).

Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer said: “This is yet another step on our journey in Wales, with the facility now starting to take shape. TRJ have proven themselves during phase one and we look forward to working with them over the course of this next phase of the project.”

Palmer said that production versions of the DBX will "start coming off the line in late 2019," but revealed that first development prototypes will be made "towards the end of next year".

"There will be some [overlap between the two sites]," he said. "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."

Ahead of its St Athan phase two announcement, Aston Martin hired ex-Maserati and Ferrari engine boss Joerg Ross to be its new chief engineer for powertrains - a move which comes as part of its push towards electrification.

"We will have an engineering centre here, it is also likely to be where we do the bulk of our electrification work," continued Palmer. "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."

Certain areas of the plant have already been built; the customer and staff reception areas, as well as administration and management offices and an employee restaurant, for which Aston Martin was given access to the site to build. The three hangars from the RAF's occupation of the site will be repurposed into the manufacturing plant. Palmer said: "We are hosting the Aston Martin Owners Club concours over the weekend, then we start work on the concrete floor first thing on Monday morning."

Some of the future employees at the site 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."

The plant's role in Aston Martin's growth plan is pivotal, as the brand chases six more model lines in the next five years; the new Vantage in 2017, Vanquish in 2018, DBX in 2019, a mid-engined sports car in 2020 and then Lagondas in 2021 and 2022.

Jimi Beckwith and Andrew Frankel

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Comments
7

6 April 2017
The report in this weeks magazine about the 7 new Astons said that the production DBX would look a lot different to the prototype. I really hope this is not the case as in my opinion the DBX in prototype form looked a very nice car.

6 April 2017
Hate the idea of an Aston SUV. This is the PERFECT opportunity to keep Aston Martin as a CAR maker, avoiding sullying what it is and what it's about -- there's no Ferrari SUV -- while also allowing the company to enter the lucrative SUV market. Just CALL IT A LAGONDA!!! Or even an Aston Martin Lagonda, if they must. I've heard the Lagonda-isn't-well-known outside the UK argument (I'm in the US), but with good marketing that would not be an issue. Heck, Lexus didn't exist when it was new, and look how marketing made that a huge success. This is the perfect opportunity to re-launch Lagonda and let Aston Martin remain a builder only of sporting CARS.

6 April 2017
And the only Lagonda anyone remembers was the fantastic looking and fantastically awful to own 4 door sedan. Let it die.
Sound move for AM. Good luck to them - this is the sort of enterprising spirit Britain needs now.
Robbo

Aussie Rob - a view from down under

7 April 2017
I disagree -- it did Porsche a lot of harm. Not to their financial position, but as a marque to respect and aspire to. Yes, I'm a purist. I've had a few Porsches, and I was a big fan of Porsche for decades. I may buy another old Porsche, but I'll probably never buy a new one. It used to be an event to see a Porsche. Now it's just another "premium" car. Let's not forget that the build quality went straight down the toilet when they started building in major volumes. 996 quality vs 993 for example -- no comparison. Cheap plastic everywhere. Engines with major catastrophic problems -- IMS bearings, rear main seals (not catastrophic, but shouldn't happen), cracked and porous bores in 911s and Boxsters. Major bore wear in Cayenne V8s. The GT cars are still interesting, but the others just don't make me want them anymore. A Cayenne is a Q7 and a Touareg underneath. The Macan is a Q5. More platform and engine-sharing is coming. Shame.

4 August 2017
Speedraser wrote:

I disagree -- it did Porsche a lot of harm. Not to their financial position, but as a marque to respect and aspire to. Yes, I'm a purist. I've had a few Porsches, and I was a big fan of Porsche for decades. I may buy another old Porsche, but I'll probably never buy a new one. It used to be an event to see a Porsche. Now it's just another "premium" car. Let's not forget that the build quality went straight down the toilet when they started building in major volumes. 996 quality vs 993 for example -- no comparison. Cheap plastic everywhere. Engines with major catastrophic problems -- IMS bearings, rear main seals (not catastrophic, but shouldn't happen), cracked and porous bores in 911s and Boxsters. Major bore wear in Cayenne V8s. The GT cars are still interesting, but the others just don't make me want them anymore. A Cayenne is a Q7 and a Touareg underneath. The Macan is a Q5. More platform and engine-sharing is coming. Shame.

 

I don't agree on the matter of platform sharing, given what everything costs nowadays it makes sense for manufacturers to spread the burden and maximize usage of each design.  Same for engines.

 

As regards jeeps, however, I'm right with you.  They are a blight on our roads second only to the electric/autonomous fad, but sadly they don't seemed destined to die out so quickly as the electric cars will.  It's especially repugnant to see badges like Lotus, Aston Martin and Volvo stuck onto hideous jeep monstrosities.  They are not only inherently more dangerous than cars, and driven by the worst kinds of driver on top of that, but they are wasteful of valuable resources and environmentally improvident compared to cars.

I don't need to put my name here, it's on the left

 

7 April 2017
About the wedge Lagonda, it was and remains a spectacularly memorable car with massive "Wow factor." Why would you want to let that kind of marketing kudos die when it would be easy to revive? Recognition like that is extremely valuable -- why miss the opportunity?

7 April 2017
IIRC, Porsche sell more SUVS than standard cars - and look how sales of the F-PACE have started to lift Jaguar's numbers.

I wonder if the world had started with SUVs, these same purists would be hoping that the manufacturers stayed true to their heritage and didn't make cars.

You move with the times or become obsolete.

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