Aston Martin to halt car production at both factories

Aston Martin Lagonda plans to stop production at its two factories on Wednesday because of the coronavirus lockdown, bringing the struggling luxury carmaker in line with other British automotive brands.

The factories will close from 25 March until at least 20 April, the carmaker said in a statement on Tuesday.

The manufacturer, famously the maker of the cars driven by James Bond, had been an outlier among British and EU carmakers, after every high-volume manufacturer across Europe closed factories as government lockdowns stopped crucial supplies, caused demand to plummet, and threatened the health of workers.

Aston Martin has struggled in the last year amid disappointing sales of its sports cars and cost overruns. It was forced to accept a bailout investment in January led by billionaire investor Lawrence Stroll in return for a short-term cash injection.

However, this month it asked Stroll for a further £20m to stave off bankruptcy, with its market value plunging further amid the turmoil caused by the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest closures affect about 850 workers at Aston Martin’s main site at Gaydon and its facility at St Athan in south Wales, which had been preparing to start production of its DBX SUV. Aston Martin said on Tuesday that the order book for the DBX has continued to build and that deliveries are still planned to start in the summer 2020, if it can restart production in time.

The DBX is a key part of Aston Martin’s plan to expand sales, targeting female buyers in Asia in particular. However, heavy investments in the St Athan factory left Aston Martin exposed when sales in China slumped.

That decline has since been matched in the UK, US and Europe. Aston Martin said that about a third of the global dealer network is closed and another third is operating with limited capacity, and it warned that more closures could follow.

However, it also added that all but one of its 18 Chinese dealers are now open, in a sign of the gradual return to normal functioning in parts of the Chinese economy.

Aston Martin said it was working with its suppliers and business partners to be ready to restart production when the suspension ends. It also said it was cutting costs such as marketing and changing the timing of spending plans “to protect the company’s financial position”.

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