Some things are unmistakeably British: Her Majesty the Queen, James Bond, the red buses, black taxis. What about Aston Martin? Whether it’s the DB5 or DBS V12, the Aston Martin and James Bond go together like strawberries and cream.
Is Aston Martin British? The answer may surprise you.
Aston Martin is a British motor company with headquarters and a manufacturing plant in the quaint village of Gaydon, in the county of Warwickshire. However, from 1991 to 2006, Aston Martin was owned by Ford Motors. During this period their cars were still manufactured in England.
What do we mean by British?
When we talk about a car brand being British, what exactly do we mean? Well, in this case, what we mean is that the manufacturer is based in Great Britain and (if there is a parent company) then this is a British company.
So, we are saying that to answer this question with a yes, cars should be built in the UK. Britain has a fine automotive history, with the likes of Rolls Royce, Bentley, and even the classic Mini showing the world how to make special cars.
However, with these under German ownership (the parent company is now BMW) – although manufacturing continues in the UK, they are no longer truly British.
Personally, what I think is important though isn’t so much where the parent company resides. What matters is where the design and manufacturing occurs and what quality the workforce is.
Where Are Aston Martins Made?
Aston Martins are made in Gaydon, Warwickshire which is situated between Birmingham and Oxford in England, about 15 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon which is the birthplace of Shakespeare himself.
The site in Gaydon was a former RAF V-bomber base (just google the Vulcan bomber, it was a fine beast) which finally changed use in 1982. Production in Gaydon started in 2007 after taking over from manufacturing in Newport Pagnell (which hosted production since 1955).
In fact, if you want to see the factory yourself – you can! Not every manufacturer will do does this but for a rather large sum of money, you can have a look behind-the-scenes at their factory in Gaydon. If you’re interested in knowing more about this, you can check out further information on their website (opens in a new window).
Although, if you already own an Aston Martin – the good news is the tours won’t cost you a penny! Here, you will be able to see every step of the car manufacturing process and if you’ve ordered one, you may even be able to see yours on the production line, how cool would that be?
When and where was Aston Martin Formed?
Aston Martin was formed in 1913 in Great Britain. Actually, their first premises were located in Henniker Mews, in Kensington, London. After the first World War, they found new premises in Abingdon Road, Kensington and here they stayed until 1925 when they moved their operations to Feltham (just West of London).
Production continued until the outbreak of war during World War 2, where they shifted manufacturing to aircraft components temporarily. After the war, in 1955, production moved to Newport Pagnell and it is from this point that the iconic DB cars started to be built.
Operations continued in Newport Pagnell until 2007, where Aston Martin switched to Gaydon, which is where they still remain today. These days, Aston Martin employ around 3,000 people but not all are located in Gaydon, they now have many dealers scattered throughout the world.
Who Has Owned Aston Martin Previously?
Aston Martin hasn’t always been in British hands. In fact, up to quite recently, they were in the hands of US car giant, Ford – but not anymore. Aston hasn’t always had its finances in the black and the company has actually changed hands a few times. Below I have listed the important dates in Aston Martin’s ownership history:
- 1913 – Aston Martin founded by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford but steered by David Brown from 1947.
- 1972 – sold to Company Developments, a UK based investment bank consortium, for £101 (yes, you did read this right, just £101 – about $130) – after David Brown (the famous ‘DB’ initials come from David’s name) paid off its debt of around £5m (around $6.5m). This partnership came to an end in 1974 after the company once again went into receivership.
- 1975 – the receiver sold the company for £1.05m to US company National Semiconductor. In 1980 though, with a recession ongoing, the company came into difficulties once more.
- 1981 – Gauntlet take over ownership but sales remained low, allegedly moving only 30 units in 1982. Ford then took a shareholding in 1987 and fully owned the company in 1991.
- 1991 – Ford amalgamated Aston Martin into its Premier Automotive Group for production of the vehicles and invested heavily in manufacturing, producing an impressive (at least for Aston Martin) 700 cars in 1995. However, in 2006, after an internal audit, Ford was required to divest part of Premier Automotive Group, which Aston was part of.
- 2007 – Prodrive, a British motorsport company and consortium lead by David Richards bought Aston Martin for $848m.
So, as you can see, the past has seen a fair few highs and (arguably) even more lows for this historic motor company. They have been close to the brink (and sped past it) on a fair few times since its conception.
The future is looking a lot brighter these days though and the value of the company is still high, despite a lot of uncertainty related to Britain leaving Europe and the global car industry economies itself.
Does it matter where cars are built?
Yes, it does matter where cars are built – whether it should matter is another question but the location of the factory does add something to a brand. When you buy a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, you expect it to be built in Italy. When you buy a Citroen, you would expect it to be built in France and when you buy an Aston Martin, you expect it to be made in England.
You can’t help but associate the stereotypical assumptions that are made of the characteristics and personality of that country with the car you’re buying.
If you buy a car from Germany you expect exceptional build quality, no rattles, and a solid car. If you buy a car from Italy you expect a car with a touch of flair, good performance, and looks but perhaps with a few little niggles that you can live with. When you buy a car from Britain you expect a very personal quality, for instance, hand-made leather interior and a touch of class and understated design.
When you think about it, it’s ridiculous to form these opinions these days but you just can’t help it. There’s both positive and negatives associated with buying a car from any country and it depends what you’re after.
Eastern European cars used to be known for having inferior quality production and indeed sometimes that can still be the case but nowadays you’re starting to see a lot higher quality and standards generally.
Aston Martin is a fascinating company with a well-documented, troubled past. The association they have with 007 – James Bond, has made this an iconic brand and the cars are sought by fans all over the world, and not just because of the association with Bond, of course.
The quality of their output certainly lives up to the hype and with the partnership, Aston Martin now has with Mercedes AMG to supply their engines (as well as other components) this only makes their output more rounded-products.
Whether Aston Martin will remain British for long is another question. There are a lot of global car manufacturers with a lot of capital and the acquisition of a profitable, British sports car manufacturer (especially one with the heritage Aston has) may well be too much of a temptation eventually.