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Aston Martin halts production amid coronavirus woes

By Holly Williams, PA Deputy City Editor

Luxury car maker Aston Martin Lagonda is suspending production at its UK manufacturing sites for nearly a month due to the Covid-19 crisis.

The group said production would be put on hold from Wednesday March 25 until April 20, but stressed this would be subject to the “rapidly-changing circumstances”.

It becomes the latest car giant to halt manufacturing in the UK, following similar moves by Jaguar Land Rover,  BMW, Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Vauxhall.

Aston Martin, known for making James Bond’s cars of choice, said the decision was one of a number of measures to “manage proactively across its supply chain and business more broadly” as it faces plunging consumer demand and disruption.

Its main car plant is in Gaydon, Warwickshire, where it employs around 500 staff, while it also has a site in St Athan, Wales, where it is building the new DBX model and has about another 300 employees.

Aston said it would pay production staff as normal during the suspension.

It would normally shut down production for a combined two weeks over Easter and in May, it added.

Aston warned earlier this month that the Covid-19 outbreak was impacting demand in China and across Asia Pacific, adding that it is now hitting sales in other markets as well.

Aston said: “Currently about a third of the dealer network is closed and a third operating with limited capacity and this level may increase.”

But in a sign of easing conditions in China, where the outbreak started, it said following closures earlier in the year, all but one of its 18 dealers there are now open.

The group said it will work with suppliers “to be ready to deliver production to meet demand following the suspension”.

It is also taking action on marketing and other costs as well as spending plans to shore up its finances in the face of the crisis.

The coronavirus pandemic has come after a dire year for the group that left it nursing widening losses of £104.3 million in 2019.

It had already cautioned that sports car wholesales are expected to be “materially lower” in 2020.

Aston is overhauling the firm and cutting costs to turn around its performance, while also selling a £182 million stake to a consortium led by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll as part of a major fundraiser.

The equity injection, which also includes a £317 million rights issue, comes less than 18 months after making its stock market debut.