The shake up at Jaguar/Land Rover continues, with a consolidation of the brands’ Midlands manufacturing facilities announced alongside plans for more vehicles.
The headline news is that Land Rover’s Solihull factory and Jaguar’s Castle Bromwich plant will be amalgamated over the next 10 years. JLR promises there will be no compulsory redundancies, and the industrial logic is compelling: consolidating production of the Range Rover/Discovery and XJ/XK/XF lines will bring around 200,000 vehicles together under one roof – still 100,000 fewer cars than Mini builds a year down in Oxford. The move will reduce JLR’s fixed costs, provide room to grow and give greater flexibility to meet the natural ebb and flow of demand.
JLR has also confirmed production of the LRX, the baby Range Rover. This small, upmarket SUV will go into series production in 2011 at the Halewood plant on Merseyside. This will create 800 jobs and safeguards the immediate future of the plant, which builds the Freelander but is winding down production of the defunct Jaguar X-type.
The company has also promised more investment in future products, including hybrid and electric powertrains. And cross-pollinating Jaguar’s lightweight aluminium know-how will be critical in reducing vehicle weight, such as with the all-new, flagship Range Rover currently in development. However a Jaguar equivalent to the LRX – a small sports car scooped by CAR and dubbed XE – was not confirmed in the announcement.
The new business plan is vital to help JLR, now owned by Tata Motors of India, bounce back from the recession. Tata Motors has been dragged into loss by its British acquisitions, which have seen demand drop by 25% in the current slump. With production already cut by 100,000 units, JLR’s plants have been running at less than 60% of capacity.
‘This is a plan that recognises the impact of the economic collapse on our business, but also the future opportunities for these two great brands,’ said JLR chief executive David Smith. ‘We are confident that a new, more efficient structure combined with future investment will unlock the true potential of this business.’