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Aston Martin hedging bets over Alabama plant decision

Neil Winton
Special to The Detroit News

Aston Martin, the storied British luxury sports car maker, is close to deciding to build a plant in Alabama, but is still hedging its bets before making the final decision.

Aston Martin had said recently that it made most sense to build a new plant in Alabama for its new DBX SUV because it was close to a Mercedes SUV factory. Mercedes’ parent Daimler has a five per cent stake in Aston Martin, and supplies the British company with V-8 engines and electronics for its sports cars.

In a speech to the Automotive News Europe Congress in Birmingham, England, Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer said the company’s expansion plan meant it was growing too big for its factory nearby, but wouldn’t confirm the new location would be Alabama.

Aston Martin plans to launch its first SUV, the DBX, in 2019 as part of its plan to increase annual sales to 15,000 from 4,000 last year. Aston Martin joins other luxury car makers pushing into the SUV market, including Bentley, owned by Volkswagen, and FCA’s Maserati.

“We need to build the new crossover (SUV) at a new location that could be the U.K. or the U.S.. We will make the decision in the third quarter. Alabama is a candidate, but other states have expressed interest, and other areas of the U.K. too,” Palmer said.

Palmer said Aston Martin wanted to transform the company, which he described as a reinvention of the brand. Aston Martin needed to become sustainable, as the market for luxury vehicles grew. The company had been targeting so-called High Net Worth Individuals (HNWLs) and would be targeting women.

Palmer said the company had a colorful financial record over its first century of life – what he called “feast and famine”, but the goal now was to change that. He pointed out that in the luxury car business, buyers often paid more than two or three times the base price as they sought to individualize the vehicles.