PRODUCTION of the Aston Martin DBX luxury SUV has begun in Wales.
The big four-door model - priced from £154,000 - was first announced for St Athan, some 20 miles west of Cardiff, in 2016.
Over the past four years the company has been converting three massive superhangers into the company's latest production centre at the former RAF base.
The St Athan stie has gradually taken on more than 600 employees to make the bespoke models at a rate of up to 4,0000 cars a year and eventually is planning to have 750 workers when additional models are added as part of a multi-million-pound investment by the car maker.
Its development as a car plant comes after the company said it is making 500 out of 2,500 workers redundant at its Gaydon HQ in Warwickshire where it makes sports cars.
The cuts are due to a collapse in orders which have dogged the automotive industry worldwide.
St Athan will become Aston Martin Lagonda's production centre for the new SUV and high performance electric cars with the flagship Lagonda likely to appear in five years time and bring the famous name back to market.
The DBX concept was shown at the Geneva Motor Show and immediately attracted buyer interest with the public unveiling of the car at the end of 2019.
There is now a 2,000 name waiting list and that eats up production to next spring with 80 per cent of cars going abroad, mostly to America and China.
Keith Stanton, Aston Martin's acting chief operating officer, drove the first completed car off the production line which snakes through the hangers in a three week's assembly journey.
He said: "It is a real privilege to be here today to witness the completion of the first production Aston Martin DBX.
"I'm extremely proud of the Aston Martin team who have worked so hard to transform this ex-Ministry of Defence site into a world-class car manufacturing facility, to now be producing cars, it is testament to the resilience and fortitude of everyone at Aston Martin."
Hosting the event was Marek Reichman, Aston's executive vice president and head of design, who said the DBX 'is a critically important landmark for Aston Martin as we expand into the SUV sector'.
He said that the DBX was a new model for the famous luxury sports cars brand and the car was an immensely practical SUV with the soul of a sports cars.
He went on: "From my design team to the engineers, the vehicle dynamics team and all the experts who hand-craft this beautiful car, here at St Athan, the DBX has become the car that will drive Aston Martin into a bold new era."
The first model off the line is destined for a German enthusiast but the flexible building technique means successive models can be signed off in any order once validated, engine tested and subjected to a high pressure water test before inspection.
Exhaustive testing has been done on 150 engineering prototypes around the world in very hot and cold climates, extremely dusty and also very dry conditions as well as off-road in forest stages used by Wales Rally GB competitors.
After the DBX drive off, Wales Minister for Economy Ken Skates said in a short statement that it was an historic moment which spoke volumes for the skills of its Welsh workforce.
The start of Aston Martin production at St Athan came as another automotive company, Ineos announced that it was putting plans to build its new Grenadier 4x4 in Wales on hold.
It is understood that Ineos has now entered into discussions with Mercedes-Benz to build the Grenadier at the former smart works at Hambach in Eastern France.
The Grenadier was unveiled only at the start of July and Ineos planned for construction to take place close to the soon-to-close Ford engine plant in Bridgend.