By CLIFFORD WEBB,
Midland Industrial Correspondent
Lord Stokes, chairman of British Leyland, is taking a firm line in talks with the Government about a major expansion of Jaguar at Coventry, and not in a northern development area. The intention is to double Jaguar’s existing capacity to around 50,000 cars a year.
I understand that Lord Stokes has made it plain to Ministers that the only way this can be done without destroying Jaguar’s closely knit production set-up is to permit new plant to be built near the existing Jaguar factories in Browns Lane and Radford. Coventry. Sir William Lyons, Lord Stokes’s deputy and chairman of Jaguar, fought a similar battle 10 years ago when booming demand for his fast and relatively inexpensive cars could not be met on the Browns Lane site.
He won and was permitted to expand by purchasing the old Daimler plant at Radford. Now with production of the best. selling XJ6 saloon running at 450 a week (when supplies are normal) and E-type sports cars at 250 a week, deliveries are ridiculously long. In some overseas markets would be Jaguar owners are placing deposits on XJ6s they will not see for at least a year. With British Leyland’s desperate need to prodce profits and to produce them quickly, it must be galling to Lord Stokes to see valuable business being lost because of this inability to deliver.
Nevertheless he is clearly determined to expand in Coventry or not at all. His own experience with the extra transportation costs, labour and other problerns at Bathgate, West Lothian,not to mention those of Rootes at Linwood, Ford at Halewood, and Vauxhall at Ellesmere Port-have weighed heavily in making this decision.