Aston Martin is setting up its new SUV and electric car plant in Wales with a production line running at twice the speed of its Gaydon HQ factory, as it searches for greater manufacturing efficiency.
Workers at the new St Athan plant will have half the time to fit components compared with those at Gaydon, where the Vantage, Rapide, DB11 and DBS Superleggera are built. The assembly stations at St Athan are planned around a 20-minute ‘Takt’ time – the industry standard for organising production lines – compared with Gaydon’s 39 minutes.
“St Athan will be more efficient because it’s a new plant being set up with the benefit of 15 years of experience of operations at Gaydon," said Aston Martin.
The Welsh plant will make 7000 cars per year, the same number as Gaydon but on one instead of two lines. St Athan consists of three converted RAF hangars – the first a body-in-white plant, the second a paint shop and the third a final assembly hall.
The factory will launch pilot production of the new DBX SUV next spring, with a series of models known internally as PT2 (for Production Trial 2). Spearheading the electric push at Aston Martin, the Rapide E will also be produced at the site in 2019, when doors officially open. In 2021, the Lagonda luxury brand's first car will enter production, as part of an all-EV line-up of Rolls-Royce rivals.
Based on the Rapide four-door and powered by an 800V, 65kWh battery pack and two rear-mounted motors with a total of 602bhp, the Rapide E will be built in a former warplane paint facility on the St Athan site. Once the limited run is complete, the unit will be converted to a pilot production plant where Aston engineers can trial new production methods for future models.
The plant's construction is now in its third and final phase, with the production lines on the way to completion, laying the groundwork for the manufacturer to launch its new DBX crossover in 2019. Although not every car produced at St Athan will be electrified, the brand aims for every car in its line-up to have an electrified option by the mid 2020s.
Entering the world's fastest growing segment, the DBX 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 that hit 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 E, is also due in 2019.