The opening of Aston Martin’s new SUV plant in St Athan in Wales offers a potential jobs lifeline to workers at Ford's engine plant in nearby Bridgend, which shuts next year.
Aston Martin is about to start recruiting staff as it moves from the current pre-production phase of its 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 St Athan reaches its 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."
This month, Ford announced it would shut its Bridgend gasoline-engine plant late next year after losing Jaguar Land Rover as a customer for its six- and eight-cylinder engines and seeing demand fall for its three-cylinder engines. The plant, which is 12 km (7.5 miles) from St Athan, currently employs around 1,700.
Ford's announcement dealt another blow to the UK car industry, which was already reeling from a decision by Honda to shut its Swindon plant in England, in 2021. Investment in the UK car 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 UK plant in 2016 after the UK 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.