Archive : Merseyside picked for Jaguar’s new small saloon car

THE INDEPENDENT
Merseyside picked for Jaguar’s new small saloon car
Gavin Green

Jaguar will announce this week that its new small car will be built at the Halewood factory on Merseyside. The move is a huge fillip for Halewood, which was under threat following Ford’s decision to stop production of the Escort there from 2000. Gavin Green reports from the motor show in Detroit.

Halewood beat off competition from other Ford factories in Germany and the USA to build the new small car, code named X400. Key factors included the decision by the Department of Trade and Industry to provide aid – thought to be pounds 50m – for the project.

Ford, which bought Jaguar in 1989, was also keen to see the new car built in the UK. Alex Trotman, the chairman, and Jac Nasser, president of automotive operations, have long said Britain was the preferred option, provided government aid was adequate.

Mr Trotman and Mr Nasser are to meet with Nick Scheele, chief executive of Jaguar, in Detroit over the next few days to thrash out last minute details of the plan. An announcement is due at the Detroit Motor Show – the first of 1998’s big international car shows – on Tuesday.

Halewood employs 4,100 people, making Escort cars and transmissions for Ford as well as body panels for the Jaguar XJ8 and XK8 models. The decision should safeguard most of those jobs.

Project X400 is a new small Jaguar saloon, which will compete with the BMW 3-series, the Audi A4 and Mercedes C-class models. Production is expected to be 100,000 a year, which would make it the biggest selling Jaguar ever. Sales are due to start in 2002.

Unlike most other Jaguars, which are targeted at the US, Europe will be X400’s biggest market. Power is likely to come from Ford-sourced V6 engines and other mechanicals will also be Ford-based to save costs.

X400 will follow on from another new Jaguar, code named X200, a medium- sized car which competes with the BMW 5-series and the Mercedes B-class and goes on sale early next year. X200 will be made at the Castle Bromwich factory in Birmingham and received pounds 80m government aid.

Following an uncertain start with Jaguar when losses soared, Ford is now credited with having effected a huge turnaround in Jaguar’s fortunes. By 2002, Jaguar production should have more than quadrupled.

Keith Adams

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