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Aston to build cars abroad

Mon, 03 Mar 2008

By Ben Oliver

Motor Industry

03 March 2008 23:05

Aston Martin is to manufacture a major model outside the UK for the first time, CAR Online can exclusively reveal. The iconic British car maker will use the Geneva Motor Show to announce that its new Rapide four-door coupe will be built in Austria by Magna Steyr.

The firm’s Graz factory is expected to build up to 3000 Rapides each year, with deliveries starting in early 2010. As with all Aston Martin engines, the £200,000 Rapide’s 6.0-litre V12 will be built in Cologne. The Rapide shares its VH platform with all other current Astons but is most closely related to the DB9.

Magna Steyr already builds around 200,000 cars each year, including the BMW X3 and Saab 9-3 convertible. From 2010, it will build 60,000 units of the new Mini Sports Activity Vehicle, but will lose the next-generation X3 to BMW’s US plant.

Bez: Aston Martins must be built abroad
CEO Ulrich Bez is believed to have asked major European coachbuilders such as Magna, Italy’s Pininfarina, Germany’s Karmann and Finland’s Valmet to tender for the production of the Rapide last year when it became clear that demand for the new car would outstrip capacity at the firm’s Gaydon factory. Aston only began production there in 2003, but since Bez took control in 2000 the company’s output has grown tenfold to 7400 cars in 2007. There is precious little extra capacity at Gaydon.

The move may alienate some Aston Martin purists, but the company is likely to stress its long history of cooperation with European designers and coachbuilders. The DB4GT Zagato of the early Sixties is regarded as the most beautiful and desirable road-going Aston Martin and takes its name from the Italian firm that bodied it. Zagato also built limited runs of the DB7-based Vantage Zagato coupe and DB AR1 roadster in 2003. All these cars were bodied in Italy on chassis built by Aston Martin in England.

Bez has speculated publicly about going much further, outsourcing all of Aston Martin’s operations with the exception of marketing, and even paying his former employer Porsche to work on the ride and handling of future Astons.

Aston Martin's business plan
Aston Martin was bought from Ford a year ago in a deal valuing it at £479 million by a consortium led by Prodrive’s David Richards, backed by Houston banker and Aston enthusiast John Sinders, and two Kuwaiti investment houses.

'I’m sure a smart PR person will put a positive spin on it,' says industry analyst Jay Nagley of Spyder Automotive. 'Aston Martin has had a long relationship with the exotic European design houses like Zagato. A lot of Porsche Boxsters are made in Finland, and much of the Rolls-Royce Phantom is made in Germany, and nobody seems to mind. And it’s not as if they’re moving production to China.'

Aston Martin spokesmen were unavailable for comment tonight.

By Ben Oliver