February 24, 2016 / 12:04 AM / a year ago

Aston Martin picks Wales for new car plant

3 Min Read

The Aston Martin DBX concept car is seen during the first press day ahead of the 85th International Motor Show in Geneva March 3, 2015.Arnd Wiegmann

LONDON (Reuters) - British luxury carmaker Aston Martin will build a new plant in Wales as part of a 200 million pound investment aimed at expanding its product range and returning to profit.

The brand said on Wednesday it would make its new DBX crossover model, designed to tap into the popularity of sport utility vehicles, at a site in St. Athan near the Welsh capital Cardiff, choosing it over 20 other domestic and global options.

Aston Martin, famous for making the DB5 sports car driven by fictional secret agent James Bond, had previously said it hoped to build the new site in Britain but that any financial support would be an important factor in its decision.

The 103-year old carmaker has suffered in recent years due to a costly recall in 2014, a slump in sales following the 2007-8 financial crisis and from not being part of a wider automotive group like many high-end rivals.

The brand, whose owners include Italian private equity group Investindustrial and Kuwaiti group Tejara Capital, is pinning hopes of a revival on the DBX, a new DB11 model to refresh its traditional line-up and its first electric car.

There was competition from sites in eastern Europe, the United States and elsewhere in Britain, a spokesman said, but the Royal Air Force site in Wales, where the firm will transform three hangers into its manufacturing facility, won due to several factors.

"It was site-readiness, infrastructure, availability of skilled labour, the proactive nature of the government, Cardiff University, (and) the area has already got aerospace, defence and other industries," he said, without giving details about the government backing.

Aston Martin, which has not turned a profit since 2010, will begin construction in 2017 and expects the plant to have a capacity of up to 8,000 vehicles with nearly all to be exported to overseas markets such as China and the United States.

Up to 1,000 jobs will be created at the new facility and its existing site in Gaydon, central England, where the firm confirmed it will build its new DB11 conventional sports car.

Chief Executive Andy Palmer told the BBC a June 23 referendum, when Britain will decide whether to remain in the European Union, had no bearing on the decision.

Additional reporting by Rama Venkat Raman in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Mark Potter

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