The launch of the £150,000 model dubbed the world’s most elegant four-door sports car is bang on schedule at Aston Martin.
The luxury Gaydon-based manufacturer revealed today that the Rapide – the first Aston Martin to be built outside Britain – had moved into the final stages of its development programme.
The West Midland-designed car, which will be built in Graz, Austria, is on course for a public debut in late 2009, with the first customer vehicles due to be delivered in early 2010.
The model launch nears as Aston Martin continues to run a three-day Monday to Wednesday week for production employees under the plant’s flexible working agreement, while 600 workers left the company in the winter under a large-scale redundancy programme.
First revealed as the Aston Martin Rapide Concept at the Detroit Auto Show in 2006, the Rapide has been hailed as one of the most eagerly awaited cars of the year worldwide.
Aston Martin chief executive Dr Ulrich Bez said: “The Rapide will be the most elegant four-door sports car in the world.
“It completes the Aston Martin range, conveying our established attributes of power, beauty and soul.” Following the £479 million purchase of Aston Martin by Formula One motorsport tycoon David Richards and two Kuwaiti funds in June 2007, the production version of the Rapide was approved and development began in earnest.
Aston Martin spokesman Matthew Clarke said the Rapide would sell for between £140,000 and £150,000, with a production target of up to 1,500 a year.
“This is a brand new model and a completely different segment for us,” he said. “This is our first foray into four-door sports cars and we are hopeful that it will attract new customers.
“The car was engineered by us and designed by us and we have got our own team from Gaydon out in Austria running the place.”
Aston Martin’s director of design Marek Reichman said: “We wanted to make the most beautiful four-door sports car in the world.”
The Rapide has been subjected to Aston Martin’s rigorous testing programme, including extreme climate testing and dynamic performance trials at the company’s new Nürburgring Test Centre.
The last stages of endurance testing are now under way, with final sign-off expected later this year before a production car is debuted in September.
The new Austrian production facility is closely modelled on the Gaydon factory and will combine a sophisticated modern production line with traditional Aston Martin hand-finishing skills.
Aston Martin has enjoyed four consecutive record years of growth following the launch of the Gaydon plant in 2003. Last year the Warwickshire manufacturer produced about 6,500 cars.
The company has created 1,000 jobs in the past eight years, but has been hit by the dramatic sales decline in the automotive sector in recent months.