In 2015, Aston Martin unveiled the DBX Concept at the 85th Geneva Motor Show. A sleek, high-riding two-door crossover, it was the first public indication that the company was investigating the possibility of an Aston Martin SUV. Behind the scenes, of course, planning was well underway.
After a long search, Aston Martin announced in February 2016 that the RAF base at St Athan would be the site of its new factory. Twenty different locations had been considered, but a 90-acre section of the MOD-owned airfield, complete with three substantial ‘super hangars’, was determined to be the most suitable spot for a new production facility, all part of the company’s £200m investment in new products and facilities.
Phase I of the new manufacturing facility kicked off in December 2016, when the previous management team met the Welsh First Minister, Rt Hon Carwyn Jones AM, on the site, officially finalising the sale.
In April 2017, St Athan hosted the Aston Martin Owners Club Spring Concours, an impressive gathering that filled up the vast hangars with Aston Martins old and new. Just a few weeks later, the first demolitions and building work started. Ultimately, the hangars would be transformed with the installation of a major new paint facility, along with front of house, canteen, offices and VIP facilities, and new state-of-the-art production line.
Phase I was completed in February 2018, transforming the utilitarian design of the hangar with the addition of sleek modern offices and a reception area, along with staff facilities and a dedicated VIP entrance. The second phase was completed in June, with work on the third and final phase – the production centre itself – continuing throughout the year. The paint shop was completed in November 2018, and final touches to the production line carried over into 2019. A process of local recruitment also began, with new local staff being trained on site and at Gaydon.
By June 2019 the factory was nearing completion and the first pre-production cars came off the line. Sporting a distinctive camouflage pattern with prominent Welsh dragon logo, these pre-production DBXs were designated for dynamic testing in different conditions around the world. In early December, the plant was officially opened by the first minister of Wales, Rt Hon Mark Drakeford.
In February 2020, Aston Martin was honoured to welcome his Royal Highness The Prince of Wales to the St Athan manufacturing facility. The Prince unveiled a commemorative plaque and was joined by a group of Aston Martin apprentices and school children from the local area.
Just six months later, the very first production DBX drove off the line at St Athan, the first Aston Martin to be ‘made in Wales’ and the start of a new era for the company.