Blog : Back to Birmingham

Keith Adams

Castle Bromwich

According to Autocar India, Jaguar Land Rover is expanding its operations in India, with a view to increasing local production. I can’t help but think that this feels like the latest chapter of success from Britain’s best-selling premium marques and one that paints a picture of a remarkable turnabout in fortunes since Ford’s decision to sell in 2007.

Last weekend, Mike Humble and I took a whistle-stop tour of Birmingham in a Jaguar XF Sportbrake, taking in Castle Bromwich, as well as taking a sneak-peek of JLR’s new factory in Wolverhampton, which is going up at lightning pace on the i54 Business Park. First stop at Castle Bromwich was interesting – I’d not been at the factory gates since 2009 for a feature in Octane magazine on the then-new XJ and it’s interesting to see how the old place has changed.

Back then, the first green shoots of recovery were well in evidence, but the atmosphere was still a little low key in the area surrounding Castle Bromwich. Fast forward to 2014, and it’s bursting with confidence in Birmingham. The factory frontage (above) certainly reflects this and, speaking to the guys on the gate, the factory has never been busier, while the local area really is showing a new-found prosperity and confidence.

The idea that Jaguar Land Rover’s tail is up right now is not just a perception with us enthusiasts and industry types – but real people, on the ground, are feeling the benefits of JLR’s international success. Riding in the XF Sportbrake, there’s very much a feeling that we’re in a car that someone could buy without any justification or excuses. It’s a good-looking, desirable and capable all-rounder that, although it’s a few years old now and the engine’s mpg and CO2 figures aren’t quite on the pace, I’m proud to say is built in Birmingham.

It’s no surprise that buyers from all over the world want a Jaguar or Land Rover on their driveways and in their garages. What’s encouraging is that Indian-owned JLR knows all too well that this is no time for complacency and is building for its future – something that never really happened before. The new engine factory is a necessity because the Ford deal to supply power units is winding down and, based on what I hear from my friends who should know, the new Hotbirds are going to be very special indeed.

However, it goes further – JLR has announced production deals in China, Brazil, the Middle East and – now – India. For me, this is marvellous – it shows that the company is deadly serious about maintaining this momentum in important overseas markets. Some may worry that the beginning of production might mark the beginning of Jaguar’s move towards being re-homed in India – but I really can’t see that’s the case, given the level of investment back at the mothership in the UK.

It’s interesting that Jaguar Land Rover and sources within Tata Motors have confirmed that the the complex-to-build XJ will be assembled in an Indian CKD operation, as well as the Evoque. But it makes sense in both cases – India’s middle classes are rapidly getting wealthier and these cars attract horrendous import duties. It would be difficult to see how this move could be anything other than beneficial to the company’s operation in the UK.

Fingers crossed that this building phase in JLR’s history will sustain its hugely profitable vehicle operations for years to come. Makes you proud to be British, doesn’t it?

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Editor at AROnline and @hjclassics. Likes cars, taking pictures, travelling and knee-high boots...


13 Responses

  1. Rob from the other, bigger Perth - February 12, 2014

    Lets not forget that Tata is a London listed company, despite it’s obvious origins!

  2. Paul - February 12, 2014

    Thanks for a proper perspective on the British Motor industry, celebrating all that’s right with it now rather than wallowing in all that went wrong before.

  3. Dave Dawson - February 12, 2014

    Paul @ 2

    You’re right – myself and others should focus more on what is now so very right with the British Motor Industry. However, my passion still lies with Austin Rover>Rover>MG Rover>MG UK. It just does and no amount of objective reasoning will stop that. I don’t really know why. Not like I’ve ever worked for the companies or had a youth filled with their cars. From a young age though I’ve always wanted to see ‘the firm’ undergo a fantastic recovery. So, I’m not really wallowing in the past when I focus on Austin Rover>MG UK. I simply still want to see a successful FUTURE for them.

  4. David 3500 - February 12, 2014

    @ Dave Dawson:

    I know how you feel as I still have the same passion for the Rover Group and more recent MG Rover Group eras, and especially the Rover marque, even though only small traces of each exist today.

    Thankfully I am more than enthusiastic to follow the fortunes of Jaguar Land Rover as each marque has faced more than its fair share of hurdles along the way. Make no mistake, there is still a huge amount of work to be done – especially with the Jaguar marque and its product portfolio – and much of what we have seen in recent years was still part of the five-year business plan that was initiated by Ford in early 2008 before they sold Jaguar Land Rover to Tata.

    But the innovation of the forthcoming new modular platform design, together with what will likely emerge from the new engine assembly plant, will show what Jaguar Land Rover is really capable of delivering thanks to the financial commitment of Tata and the opportunity to build the sort of cars it knows its customers want to buy.

  5. Neil B - February 13, 2014

    At last a company that may well one day, if the pace is maintained, seriously challenge German dominance of the premium sector.

  6. Dave Dawson - February 13, 2014

    David 3500, above

    With so many posting between us these last few days I think you, me and David Knowles should become the “Three Davids” !!

    Where would I be most evenings without AROnline? The average person would think me bonkers but when it’s in the blood!!

  7. maestrowoff - February 13, 2014

    The success of the Tata owned JLR has been great news for the Birmingham area, that super bowl F type advert was pretty cool too :-)

  8. Carl - February 13, 2014

    It is JLR’s aspiration to be building 220k cars a year by 2020. Even with India on stream there will still be a significant shortfall to this goal, therefore more expansion closer to home is on the cards in the medium term.

  9. Glenn Aylett - February 13, 2014

    Rather a contrast to the related post about 10,000 British Leyland workers in Birmingham being on strike, times have definitely changed for the better in the British car industry. Yes there might be fewer people employed in the industry in Birmingham in the seventies, but what remains is vastly more productive and making cars people want to buy.

  10. Norbert - February 13, 2014

    It’s great having a car industry in the UK to be proud of, producing world beating products, like we once had in the 1960s. Shame it’s not British owned but the future is much brighter than we dared hope in 2005.

  11. Glenn Aylett - February 14, 2014

    Remember, Jaguar was close to death in 1980 with huge losses, terrible quality and falling sales. However, since it was an iconic brand( especially in America), British Leyland wisely decided to save it and for all the last 33 years have seen some rocky periods, the brand is probably the strongest it’s ever been.
    Now all they need to do is find a decent replacement for the Jaguar X Type that can take on the world’s most overrated car( the BMW 3 series) and establish Jaguar is a major player in the small executive sector. Also ex Rover buyers could be tempted if the product is good enough.

  12. g scoth - February 21, 2014

    why don’t we play on a even field . lets have import duties the same as people who sell there cars here .If Indian import duties are horendus WE WOULD NOT HAVE IMPORTED THE CITY ROVER .then today we would not have cheep imports like those japanies Indian built modles selling for under £7.000.00

  13. Christopher Storey - February 21, 2014

    @12. Er…yes ; or is that, no ?? The illogicality, not to mention the illiteracy, of this post makes it virtually impossible to understand

Have your say...