Press Report : Hopes rise of new Tata assembly line in the Midlands

Birmingham Post, 20th September, 2009

Tata’s Indica Vista EV will be built in the UK.

Tata’s Indica Vista EV will be built in the UK.

Hundreds of jobs are set to be created at the Midlands-based engineering and design unit owned by Tata Motors after the Indian firm was given a loan to start making electric cars in the UK.

The Government lent £10 million to Jaguar Land Rover owners Tata to develop a new breed of electric cars. The loan was given to the Tata Motors European Technical Centre plc (TMETC), based at the University of Warwick. The centre employs 180 people in the West Midlands, and says it expects job numbers will rise to 441 by 2014. Even more jobs would be created if Tata picks the West Midlands to assemble the new cars.

Tata has confirmed that the new Indica Vista Electric Vehicle will be assembled in the UK, and says it will be revealing the location soon. The UK was chosen over Spain and Norway for the production site. It has not yet given any details of how UK-based production of the Vista will be carried out, or what kind of facilities would be needed, but it is hoped the move would create a significant number of jobs, both directly and through the supply chain.

Rachel Eade, the Operations Manager at automotive supply chain support body Accelerate said she hoped the West Midlands would be chosen for the assembly plant. She said: “The £10m loan from the Automotive Assistance Programme is excellent news for the West Midlands car industry and is just the type of high value, cutting edge technology the Government should be helping to develop.

The £10m loan from the Automotive Assistance Programme is excellent news for the West Midlands car industry and is just the type of high value, cutting edge technology the Government should be helping to develop. The regional supply chain has already started to embrace the low carbon movement and a number of our companies have developed innovative ways of taking traditional expertise and transferring into new areas of activity for the likes of Modec and Zytek, both pioneering electric vehicles.” Rachel Eade, Operations Manager, Accelerate

“The regional supply chain has already started to embrace the low carbon movement and a number of our companies have developed innovative ways of taking traditional expertise and transferring into new areas of activity for the likes of Modec and Zytek, both pioneering electric vehicles. There is no doubt that this money will help the West Midlands continue the ‘drive’ and should hopefully place us at the forefront of green technology going forward.”

The Indica Vista EV is a four-seater car, based on a design that was launched in India earlier this year. It uses battery technology from a Norwegian company and will first be seen on the road in Europe there.

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said the £10m loan – which is supported by £25m of funding from Tata – it would create engineering jobs in the West Midlands and promote a low-carbon industry. He said: “The Government is determined to help the car industry to exploit fully the opportunities offered by green manufacturing. Today we are backing Tata as Tata backs Britain.

“This loan will strengthen our electric vehicle manufacturing expertise, securing and creating high value engineering jobs in the West Midlands. TMETC will continue to invest in R&D in the next generation of sustainable transport, helping it become a lead player in this exciting and important technological area.”

It is the first loan the Government has made from the Automotive Assistance Programme (AAP) which was set up by Lord Mandelson at the start of the year to support the automotive industry.

A spokesman for Tata said: “Tata Motors European Technical Centre appreciates the £10 million loan, under the UK Government’s Automotive Assistance Programme, to develop and manufacture the Tata Indica Vista Electric Vehicle in the UK with an investment of £25 million. The Tata Indica Vista EV will be the first four-seater electric car with a range of up to 200km to become available this year in Europe.”

Tata said it would be supplying 25-30 models of the Indica Vista EV to be used in the Technology and Skills Board trials taking part in Birmingham and Coventry. The trials are part of a £25m Government project to test out low-carbon cars in eight regions of the country over the next six to 18 months as the first step towards a national low-carbon transport network. The eight regional projects are all being run by consortia of local businesses, car manufacturers and regional authorities.

The West Midlands consortium is called CABLED – short for Coventry and Birmingham Low Emission Demonstrators – and is made up of 13 organisations, led by infrastructure firm Arup. The consortium committed to developing and demonstrating 110 road-worthy vehicles to be trialled in the two cities over 12 months, 40 of which will be smart electric vehicles.

Tata Motors European Technical Centre appreciates the £10 million loan, under the UK Government’s Automotive Assistance Programme, to develop and manufacture the Tata Indica Vista Electric Vehicle in the UK with an investment of £25 million. The Tata Indica Vista EV will be the first four-seater electric car with a range of up to 200km to become available this year in Europe.” A spokesman for Tata Motors European Technical Centre plc

Part of the funding came from regional development agency Advantage West Midlands, and cars for the project were set to be supplied by Jaguar/Land Rover, Mitsubishi/Colt, Mercedes Benz/Smart, LTI and Microcab Industries, as well as Tata. These will be a mix of fully electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and hydrogen fuel cell cars. Electricity providers E.ON are delivering charging points for the trial with assistance from the city councils of Birmingham and Coventry.

Three of the Midland’s leading universities play a major role in the scheme: Coventry University on the selection of drivers, Aston University in the analysis of vehicle usage, and the University of Birmingham in the use of hydrogen fuelling station – theirs is currently one of the very few of its kind in UK. A new hydrogen station is planned for Coventry University.

When the scheme was launched in July, Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis said: “We want Britain to be at the forefront of ultra-low carbon automotive technology, blazing a trail for environmentally friendly transportation. Central to our plans is the stimulation of demand for low carbon cars through projects like this to test the technology and give motorists the opportunity to feedback the information needed to make greener motoring a reality

“Our aim is for ultra-low carbon vehicles to be an everyday feature of life on Britain’s roads in less than five years. This is a challenging target and there is still a long way to go. However, if we continue to work closely with motorists and the industry with initiatives like the demonstrations project, I believe it is achievable.”

[Source: Birmingham Post]

 

Clive Goldthorp

About the Author:

Clive claims that his interest in the BMC>MG story dates back to his childhood in the 1960s when the family’s garage premises were leased to a tenant with an Austin agency. However, back in the 1920s and 1930s, his grandmother was one of the country’s first female Garage Proprietors so cars probably run in his genes! Admits to affairs with Alfa Romeos, but has more recently owned an 06/06 MG TF 135 and then a 15/64 MG3 Style… Clive, who was AROnline’s News Editor for nearly four years, stood down from that role in order to devote more time to various Motor Racing projects but still contributes articles on as regular basis as his other commitments permit.

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