Aston Martin is a brand known across the world, most famous for its luxurious cars that feature in the Bond movies. However, the expensive cars are not just valuable because of their elegance and power, as the way Aston Martins are built is a vital factor too.
Aston Martins are hand built, at least for the most part. The company builds the bulk of its cars by hand at its factories in Gaydon and St. Athan in England, with the only automated processes involved being those for small repetitive tasks like applying adhesives.
When you realize that almost the entirety of an Aston Martin is put together by hand, the sky-high price tags become somewhat justifiable. But how do they build their cars by hand, and what does the future hold for Aston Martin’s production techniques?
Why Is Aston Martin Such A Big Brand?
Aston Martin has its roots in a partnership in 1913 between Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford. While a lot of the company’s early models were built exclusively for racing, the brand took the world by storm when James Bond first drove an Aston Martin DB5 in the 1964 movie Goldfinger.
Appearing in several Bond movies since, Aston Martin has become the quintessential image of the British spy movie. However, the brand also received a Royal Warrant in 1982 to provide the Prince of Wales with his vehicles. With more than 160 dealerships all over the world, Aston Martin is now truly a global brand.
Not Always Profitable
However, it hasn’t always been plain sailing for Aston Martin, with the company having faced bankruptcy on 7 occasions in its 100+ year history. However, with a recent flotation on the London Stock Exchange and a change in ownership, the brand has finally managed to show profitability.
Billionaire Lawrence Stroll is now chairman, and his appointment resulted in the rebranding of the Racing Point F1 team to become Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team for the 2021 season. This only added to the global attention the brand receives, and it represents new avenues for the British carmaker to pursue.
We’ll touch on some other changes to Aston Martin’s business soon, but let’s discuss the company’s production methods in more detail first.
Are All Aston Martins Hand Built?
All Aston Martins are hand built and have been since the company’s inception. The main reason for this is that every Aston Martin is highly customizable, so there are quite often hundreds of components that can vary between the cars. This requires a lot of coordination between steps in the production line.
For the sake of this discussion, we’ll use the phrase hand built to mean a car that has the majority of its parts assembled physically by hand by workers in a factory. This means the car is put together solely by the skills of those working on the factory floor, and not by dozens of machines on a traditional modern assembly line.
There are some robots involved in the production of an Aston Martin, but the company prefers to call these “assistors” rather than robots. These are only used for very particular tasks, usually ones that may cause repetitive stress if a human was to perform them. The main example they provide is to apply a certain adhesive between components.
This is a very easy process that doesn’t change between the cars, so it’s perfectly reasonable to have a machine do this so that the skilled workers can focus on the more important parts of the car. This is an important point, because it reiterates the fact that so much of an Aston Martin is customizable by the end customer.
Plenty Of Customization
From custom wood paneling on the interior to different shades of leather for the seats, there are lots of areas of an Aston Martin that can be configured to suit any taste. This is unlike your standard production car options, where you can only choose a different engine size and color scheme.
This is part of what makes any Aston Martin vehicle unique, but it’s also important for the customer. They buy an Aston Martin not only knowing that it’s put together by hand, but that it has been made specifically for them.
With so much customizability involved, it wouldn’t make financial sense to involve robots everywhere. Only humans are capable of working with so many variations of particular parts, and to program a machine to be able to put together all the different combinations of Aston Martin components would be both time and money intensive.
However, there’s another important reason for this. Aston Martin only produces around 5,000 cars per year, compared to a brand like Jaguar that sees close to 20 times that number of units produced annually. This small production figure means Aston Martin can afford to spend more time on each individual car. Higher production figures on the other hand benefit from increased automation.
Too Many Variables
With more than 600 engineers working on the cars, it takes over 200 manhours to build each individual Aston Martin. With each car having perhaps 10,000 components, and hundreds of them being possibly different between each vehicle, computers just would not be able to keep up at this level of production.
Aside from the financial implications that automated assembly lines bring with them, there is also just the aspect of craftsmanship that customers look for when they buy their Aston Martin. They know that it has taken hours of labor to produce their new car, and from signatures on the engine cover to the finishing touches inside, they know that the high price tag demands attention to detail.
Aston Martins retail for $150,000 to well over $250,000 depending on the customization and model, so customers expect unique quality. You won’t find any plastic on an Aston Martin, and everything that looks like metal, wood or leather is most definitely metal, wood or leather.
But what does the future of the automotive industry hold for Aston Martin’s production line?
Will Aston Martins Always Be Hand Built?
There is no doubt that the handmade nature of an Aston Martin is a large contributing factor to the company’s fame and success. Customers are able to take a look inside the factory free of charge to see how it all comes together, and this really allows the brand to connect with its growing customer base in a way most car manufacturers can’t.
This alone is one reason the hand built approach to Aston Martin’s cars is likely to stay for the long term. While still impressive, most people aren’t that interested in seeing their Ford or Toyota being assembled by robots in a couple of hours. If Aston Martin couldn’t show their customers the hard work being done in front of their very eyes, they’d lose a big chunk of their appeal and identity.
Possible Roles For Computers
But as the world moves towards increased use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, computers are getting smarter and can cope with more and more variables. As it becomes cheaper to program robots, Aston Martin may start to increase computer responsibility from gluing parts together to constructing larger parts of the car.
There is no doubt that a lot of the components will still be assembled by hand, especially on the interiors of the cars. But it may eventually become financially smart for the brand to include more automation on their assembly line. One main reason for this is the shift towards the creation of electric cars, rather than those powered by good old gasoline.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are totally different beasts from petrol or diesel powered cars, and with Lawrence Stroll committing to a 2025 start for Aston Martin EVs, new processes will surely have to be implemented back at the factory to accommodate the changes in the parts used.
Hand Built Is Here To Stay
If AI can be shown to be a cost-effective method of producing more of an Aston Martin car than it currently does, it will no doubt be implemented in order to minimize the time and financial costs of setting up new parts of the assembly line. However, the bulk of an Aston Martin, from the paneling to the interiors, will still be put together by hand.
Customers understand and like the fact that their car is put together by hand. The training and craftsmanship that goes into these vehicles is a major selling point. So, Aston Martin won’t be in a rush to take that aspect away from their brand.
Aston Martins are hand-built at the company’s factories in Gaydon and St. Athan. While machines are used for small parts of the process like applying adhesives, the bulk of the car is put together by a team of 600+ skilled engineers, taking more than 200 manhours to complete.