Saturday, November 14, 2009

The first Aston Martin built outside UK

The first Aston built outside UK

The Rapide model is also their first four-seat model since the Lagonda Rapide in 1961.

So why is the Rapide being built at a factory in Graz, Austria, instead of the firm's state-of-the-art HQ at Gaydon, Warwickshire?

When the Rapide was first planned three years ago there was no prediction of a global recession and Gaydon was working at full capacity.

New models were on the way and there was simply not enough production space at the factory to build the Rapide.

So Aston chose Magna Steyr, a specialist car plant in Graz which already builds models for BMW and Mercedes, with 240 Austrian workers preparing to build up to 2,000 Rapides a year from early 2010.


Aston have spent the past 16 months replicating their British production operation at their own dedicated factory in Graz, with a small team of Aston specialists training Magna staff, some of whom have travelled to Gaydon for first-hand experience.

The irony is that Aston, like every car firm, have been hit hard by the recession and production at Gaydon has been cut back.

So the Rapide could now have been built in the UK, but the firm had already invested heavily in setting up the Austrian operation.

And having become the first British journalist to have spent a day on the production lines in Graz, I can confirm the factory is an identical replica of the UK plant. The workers even wear Aston uniforms.


They follow the same meticulous quality control levels and attention to detail, taking a month to painstakingly hand-build each car.

It takes 40 man hours to produce the leather trim for each Rapide and nearly 50 to apply a car's nine different coats of paint. And workers like Wolfgang Mayer, a lead technician on the engine assembly, are clearly proud of the fact they are building an Aston Martin.

Wolfgang spent five months at Gaydon learning the "Aston way".

"We are all very proud of building the Rapide, it's a very beautiful car and the best we've ever built at Graz.

"And we all know that Aston is the favourite car of James Bond."

Helmut Wagner is in charge of Rapide production and he says the model has added some "glamour and excitement" to the production lines and the local community.

"Getting the Rapide model has been great news for Graz and there is a lot of excitement in the factory.

"And now we are testing the car on local roads it is also causing a stir in the city."

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