St Athan will be the Welsh bedrock on which Aston's future profitability is built
Given the sorry history of false starts and expensive cancellations that have plagued the former MOD site at St Athan, news that Aston Martin has completed its first phase of building work should be treated with nothing short of a standing ovation.
If all goes well, the new factory will begin producing the DBX next year - a crossover model at the very heart of Aston's ambitious expansion plans. The scale of the new facility exemplifies the boldness of its best intentions: the site will become the firm's third manufacturing plant alongside Gaydon and Newport Pagnell, and will create up to 750 jobs initially (for which it has had 3,000 applications).
Aston claims to have assessed 20 potential sites for its new assembly line - a number of them abroad - before settling on St Athan, although the existing facility boasted some considerable advantages. For a start, there were already three hugely commodious 'super' hangars on site; paid for by the taxpayer, and barely used for their original purpose.
It can't have hurt either that the new factory is only two and a half hours from Gaydon. Aston has admitted that in the course of launching seven new models, some activities will inevitably overlap - and it's rather cheaper to ship stuff down the M5 than recreate the tooling from scratch. Certain elements will eventually be travelling in the other direction, too, thanks to the establishment of engineering centre at St Athan that will deal specifically with electrification.
Andy Palmer, Aston's energetic CEO, has also previously stated that he likes the idea of having "two competing plants" as it promotes internal competition. There's also the little matter of Britishness - a quintessential feature of how the brand is regarded globally.
For now, Aston has confirmed that the offices, reception area and employee restaurant are complete. Next it is the turn of the three hangars, which will be 'redeveloped' to house the manufacturing facilities required to begin production of the DBX: one handling the body in white, one becoming the paint shop and one to look after trim and final assembly.
Commenting on the news, Palmer said: "The St Athan facility is really starting to take shape. With the completion of this first phase, it is another milestone on our journey in Wales, and an important part of Aston Martin's Second Century Plan. Work is also well underway on phase two; the rest of the Aston Martin team and I are excited for when St Athan joins our Gaydon and Newport Pagnell facilities as a centre of hand-crafted manufacturing excellence."
Join the PH rating wars with your marks out of 10 for the article (Your ratings will be shown in your profile if you have one!)