Magna to Build Aston Rapide

March 10, 2008
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Magna International Inc. has nailed down a contract to build a vehicle for Great Britain's ultra-prestigious Aston Martin Rapide sedan.

Magna Steyr, Magna's vehicle-building subsidiary, will build the four-door Rapide at its manufacturing center in Graz, Austria, beginning in late 2009. The goal is to build about 2,000 cars annually, Aston Martin said.

"We are pleased that we could win a completely new customer and a new brand for our complete vehicle assembly business," said Magna spokeswoman Tracy Fuerst.

Aston Martin first showed the Rapide as a concept vehicle at the North American International Auto Show back in January, 2006.

In the spring of 2007, Ford sold Aston Martin for $925 million to an investment group that included auto racing magnate David Richard, Aston Martin enthusiast John Sinder and two Kuwaiti investment firms, Investment Dar and Adeem Investment. Last May, the group said it would go ahead with the plans for the Rapide.

The decision to ask Magna Steyr to build the Rapide reflected the fact that Aston Martin's factory in Gaydon is at capacity building current models, including the Vantage, DB9 and new DBS, officials from the British carmaker said.

"The company has grown substantially since the Gaydon headquarters and production facility was opened in 2003, turning the company into one of the U.K. motor industry's top success stories," Aston Martin said in a statement.

Over the years, Magna Steyr has built vehicles for General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler and BMW at its complex in Graz.

Nevertheless, the decision to build the Rapide in the heart of Europe represents something of cultural shift for ultra-British and cachet-laden Aston Martin, which is widely known for building the favorite cars of British super spy James Bond.

Aston Martin's statement was careful to note that the Rapide represents an expansion of the Aston Martin line and nothing is being dropped or cut at Gaydon, which is now building about 8,000 cars annually.

"The continuing growth and success of the company is based upon Gaydon as the focal point and heart of the business, with the design and engineering of all Aston Martin products continuing to be carried out there," the company said in the statement, announcing the deal with Magna Steyr.

However, the partnership with Magna could facilitate Aston Martin's expansion into the wealthy markets in Russia and Central Asia. Magna is now owned in part by Russian businessman with close ties to Vladimir Putin.

As part of the deal, Magna has agreed to establish a dedicated Aston Martin production operation with the Graz complex. The design of the Rapide plant in Graz will be based upon Aston Martin's production plant in Gaydon and the Aston Martin production plant in Cologne.--Joe Szczesny

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