St Athan will also assemble Aston’s new Rapide-E electric sedan at a separate building next to the main plant. The limited-edition car is partly intended to give Aston development and production staff experience with electric cars ahead of the launch of the Lagonda range of all-electric ultraluxury vehicles. Those will also be built in St Athan, starting with an SUV in 2022.
St Athan closely resembles the automaker’s main factory in Gaydon, England, in terms of technology used, but with more automation.
“Anyone coming from Gaydon would be 70 percent familiar with the facilities. They have just got to adapt to the new technology,” Ward said. Examples include more robots in the paint shop, which was installed by U.S. specialist Eisenmann, and body shop, installed by Comau of Italy.
Unlike at Gaydon, Aston decided to outsource its seat and interior-trim shop to suppliers, partly because of the lack of skills in south Wales — a region with no historical carmaking experience.
“There is not a whole skill level of trimming here so we would have to go out and train people, whereas there are suppliers who can do that and get the quality straight away,” Ward said.
All other skills were available locally, he said, adding, “We have had a great success of getting engineering-type skills.”
Competition for jobs advertised so far has been fierce. “The first time we announced jobs three years ago, we had 3,000 turn up at the door,” Ward said.
St Athan impressed Bernstein analyst Max Warburton, who visited the plant Monday at the same time as Automotive News Europe.
“We leave St Athan confident that the car is real, the plant is real and the opportunity in this stock is now real,” Warburton wrote in a note.
Aston Martin has struggled on the stock market since its initial listing in October last year, but Warburton thinks a successful DBX launch could reverse some of the stock’s losses and put Aston on the path to profitability.
“It’s a very good-looking SUV,” he said. “It’s certainly better-looking than its rivals — although that’s a low bar. If all goes to plan, 2020 and 2021 could be spectacular for Aston.”
However, said Warburon, Aston Martin “does not have the luxury of being late delivering DBX.”