Blog : Back to Birmingham
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?