By Clifford Webb Midland Industrial Correspondent
British Leyland are to spend £60m to double production at their Jaguar factory in Coventry by the end of 1975. This would raise output to 60,000 cars a year, but the new complex would have built-in flexibility to produce 90,000 if necessary.
These details, which reveal a much larger expansion than had previously been disclosed, were given in Coventry yesterday at a public examination of future plans covering the administrative county of Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull. Mr Geoffrey Robinson, newly appointed managing director of Jaguar and former head of British Leyland’s Italian company Innocenti, told the inquiry that it was calculated that the present factory in Browns Lane would be doubled and the labour force increased from 4,800 to nearly 10,000.
The additional land required for the expansion would be 20 acres. He said the new buildings would be laid out and equipped to permit capacity to be expanded as high as 90,000 cars a year. But at the present time it was by no means certain that there would be a market for so many Jaguars and in any event it was only a long-term possibility. In reply to questions about the possibility of expansion away from Coventry he said such a move was “inconceivable”.
Jaguar’s presence was of enormous importance to the local scene and the skills of Coventry workpeople were quite exceptional. Whether or not British Leyland will still wish to proceed with such a large investment in four and five litre cars must be weighted against the long-term outcome of the present fuel crisis. There are increasing doubts about the future of big cars. American car manufacturers are already engaged in a massive production switch from their traditional large cars to much smaller models.
British Leyland are also known to be spending around £100m on the expansion of their Rover Triumph car factories during the next three years. Work has already started on the construction of a £50m assembly plant and paint shop at Rover Solihull.