Aston Martin Plans To Open New Plant In Alabama For The DBX
Aston Martin is gearing up to manufacture its new DBX crossover, but before production can begin, the British automaker must first decide where it’ll be built. The most likely candidate will be in a new factory created in the southern U.S. state of Alabama. Aston is expected to finalize its decision by the end of the year.
AM’s head honcho Andy Palmer said that a new factory in Alabama is the “obvious choice” in a recent interview with Automotive News Europe. The stateside location is under close examination, as it would give the marque easy access to one of its largest projected consumer markets for the new crossover: “Our principal customers will be in the United States and China,” Palmer said.
While the Chinese market is also expected to gobble up more than its fair share of the new high-end vehicle, Palmer said it is difficult to export cars from China. Aston would also need to form a new joint venture with a Chinese automaker.
Further incentive for the Alabama location would be proximity to Daimler’s manufacturing plant in Vance, Alabama, roughly 34 miles from Birmingham, although AM did recently refute speculation that the DBX would be built using the Mercedes GL platform. Daimler currently has a 5 percent stake in the company in exchange for a technology sharing agreement that sees the German multinational provide electrical architectures and V-8 engines for Aston’s next-gen sports cars.
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Why it matters
The DBX is slated for release some time in 2019. It’s part of Aston’s stated goal of reaching 15,000 annual vehicle sales, a substantial increase when considering the marque only managed to move 4,000 units last year.
In order to build that many cars, AM will most likely need to start with a new plant. Currently, every Aston Martin on the road was built at the factory in Gaydon, in central England. According to Palmer, 15,000 cars a year is still a possibility from this single factory alone, but it would push production to its limit: “If went to three shifts we would be at 15,000 a year, so theoretically we could do it but you’d have no room for stoppage for maintenance,” he said.
It’s believed the crossover will use a modified version of Aston’s next-generation, in-house, all-aluminum sports-car architecture, which will offer a lower driving position, reduced curb weight, and a more car-like feel.
But there are still difficulties, no matter which route Aston chooses. For example, in order to create the DBX overseas, Aston would need to ship over components from England: “It’s not impossible to imagine [the new factory] acting as a hub and a spoke to our craftsmen in Gaydon. One of the mental challenges we need to go through right now is how do you create British craftsmanship and reproduce it somewhere else,” Palmer said.
Regarding the new plant’s possible juxtaposition with the Daimler factory, Aston has stated it will not create the DBX using an existing Mercedes platform. Instead, it’s believed the crossover will use a modified version of Aston’s next-generation in-house all-aluminum sports-car architecture, which will offer a lower driving position, reduced curb weight, and a more car-like feel: “It just depends how high off the ground it could go,” Palmer said in a separate interview with Automotive News Europe. However, Mercedes components are still very much a possibility for the crossover, as Palmer added: “I don’t exclude the possibility of using some [Mercedes] parts, but I would say very much the primary route is our platform.”
All told, Alabama is almost certainly the future birthplace of the DBX. Roughly half of new car sales in the U.S. are SUVs and crossovers, while export to China and Europe would be streamlined thanks to Mercedes’ existing infrastructure. And when it comes to Aston’s aspirations to stay independent, it’s placing a lot of faith in the DBX, and will need to eke out every dollar possible to stay in the green.
Personally, I’m not the biggest SUV/crossover fan, but if DBX sales mean the century-old brand can continue to do what it does best (like build the Vanquish), then I’m all for it.
The DBX is Aston Martin’s first crossover in a long history of sports cars and coupes. Although it comes with two doors, the DBX is a larger, beefier take on traditional British performance. The original concept was all-electric, and while the final drivetrain specs have yet to be revealed, Aston hopes the DBX will open up its customer range beyond the traditional older male to include younger and female buyers. Inside will be a 2+2 layout and high-end materials like leather upholstery and aluminum, plus lots of tech, like a heads-up display and the latest in infotainment.
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Source: Automotive News