B2B typically means commerce from one business to another, but this week in the auto world it meant something else entirely — Birmingham to Birmingham. At a speech to the Automotive News Europe Congress in Birmingham, U.K., Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer hinted that Birmingham, AL was the “obvious choice” for his company’s next auto plant.
Although the British luxury auto maker stopped short of confirming their plans for a potential Dixie plant, industry experts say the company likely wants their factory to be located near the Mercedes Benz plant in Vance. Mercedes’ parent company Daimler Benz has a financial stake in the British company, and the two businesses have an agreement to coordinate their manufacturing activities. Specifically, Mercedes has agreed to supply Aston Martin with V-8 engines and advanced electronic systems.
Therefore, many industry analysts expect Aston Martin to finalize plans for an Alabama plant later this year, with Palmer pledging to make a decision by the third quarter. In 2014, Alabama set a new state record for auto production, when local factories manufactured more than a million cars.
Worldwide, the luxury automobile market has doubled in size over the past five years, and Aston Martin is struggling to keep pace with its competitors, particularly Lamborghini and Bentley. Luxury automobile buyers expect extremely high performance from their cars, and Lamborghini’s Murcielago reaches speeds of 211 mph, while the Bentley Azure tops out at 171 mph. In addition to those flagship cars, Bentley and Lamborghini are introducing crossover luxury SUV’s.
To compete, Aston Martin will launch their first ever SUV in 2019, dubbed the DBX. And that’s the car many auto industry watchdogs expect to be built in an Alabama factory (the nearby Mercedes plant also makes SUV’s).
In 2014, Aston Martin only sold 4,200 vehicles, and Palmer says he’s setting an ambitious goal of selling 15,000 luxury vehicles by 2019. In order to do so, the company will need to invest in a new factory, their first ever outside the U.K.
And after the company’s presentation in Europe, Alabama politicians are doing their best to court the British auto maker. In addition to Aston Martin, Hyundai is also rumored to be opening a second plant in Alabama.