The opening of Aston Martin’s new SUV plant in St Athan in Wales offers a potential lifeline to workers at Ford's engine plant in nearby Bridgend, which will be shuttered next year.
Aston Martin is about to start recruiting staff as it moves from the current pre-production phase of the new DBX to full production starting around April next year. The company estimates it will eventually hire 1,000 workers over the next two years as the St Athan plant reaches annual capacity of 7,500.
"Obviously there will be a lot of interest from Bridgend to come here," said Scott Ward, director of manufacturing at St Athan. "There will be some natural skill sets that we will want here, so they’re a step ahead in terms of opportunities."
Ford said this month it would shut its Bridgend gasoline-engine plant late next year after losing Jaguar Land Rover as a customer for six- and eight-cylinder engines and seeing demand fall for three-cylinder engines. The plant, which is 12 km (7.5 miles) from St Athan, currently employs around 1,700 workers.
Ford's announcement dealt another blow to the U.K. car industry, which was already reeling from a decision by Honda to shut its Swindon plant in England, in 2021. Investment in the U.K. auto industry has fallen dramatically since the country voted to leave the European Union in 2016, with Aston’s expansion one of the few recent bright spots for the industry.
Aston Martin chose St Athan for its second U.K. plant in 2016 after the British government offered the automaker empty hangars formerly used by the Britain's defense ministry to maintain military aircraft on the St Athan air base.
The company has since overhauled the buildings to include a paint shop, body shop and final-assembly area.
The site has already built eight pre-production models of the DBX, which will rival the Bentley Bentayga crossover and Lamborghini Urus luxury SUV. The DBX will be unveiled in December.