Aston Martin has begun a “phased return” to vehicle production at its St Athan plant a fortnight after F1 team boss Lawrence Stroll prioritised the restart with a £536 million cash boost.
The Gaydon-based car manufacturer started work at the recently developed Welsh facility, which produces its crucial new DBX SUV model, in-line with what it called “extensive and wide-reaching new safety measures” designed to reduce COVID-19 risk for employees.
Aston Martin Lagonda is keen to get production of its 550PS DBX up-and-running following its November 2019 claims that it would “propel the brand to new heights worldwide” on the back of an annual sales target of 4,000-per-year globally.
Vehicle production at the Gaydon plant is expected to commence at a later date.
Coronavirus safety measures introduced to ensure a safe return to work at St Athan – implemented in close consultation with the Unite workers’ union – include a range of actions being taken exceeds latest Government advice, according to a statement issued by the brand today (May 7).
Scott Ward, director of manufacturing at Aston Martin Lagonda’s St Athan site, said: “The safety and ongoing good health of our staff is absolutely paramount in our thinking as we slowly and carefully return to car building.
“The arrangements we have put in place here for our phased return to work as we continue to build the brand’s first SUV – the highly anticipated DBX – are designed to support the health and safety of staff while, of course, doing everything we can to ensure we do not add to the burden already being borne by the incredibly dedicated frontline staff of the NHS.”
Philip Reardon, senior shop steward and health and safety representative for Unite Wales, said: “Unite the Union is working closely with Aston Martin Lagonda to ensure, above all, a safe return to work for all staff as the business looks to move on from the lockdown phase.
“In doing so, our members are supporting the shared desire to deliver a sustainable business for all those working not only at St Athan but across the Aston Martin business in the UK.”
Aston Martin said that the social distancing, health and hygiene instructions introduced at the St Athan plant cover every aspect of a staff member’s interaction with work from preparing to leave home to arriving on site; navigating the site; breaks and mealtimes; falling ill whilst at work; dealing with visitors and contractors; and leaving the site.
There is also detailed guidance on PPE management; travel between Aston Martin Lagonda sites; and pool car arrangements.
The OEM said that dozens of individual actions and instructions had been drawn-up to support social distancing, with carefully calculated limits on employee numbers on site and working at any given time to support staff actions.
Appropriate PPE is being provided to all returning staff, for example mandatory use of masks at all time while on site, while temperature checks on arrival at work are also being introduced.
Lawrence Stroll targeted a return to vehicle production last month after providing a £536m funding boost to Aston Martin following his acquisition of a 17% share in the business in January.
Auto Express reported on April 21 that part of the funding was expected to come from Stroll’s ‘Yew Tree’ consortium with the rest from a rights issue.
A further credit line of £150m is also reported to have been made available to the company, it said.
Stroll has replaced Penny Hughes as executive chairman at Aston Martin, with Dr Andy Palmer remaining as chief executive.
The outgoing Hughes said earlier this year that “difficult trading performance in 2019 resulted in severe pressure on liquidity which has left the company with no alternative but to seek substantial additional equity financing”.