By Clifford Webb Midland Industrial Correspondent
Lord Stokes, chairman of British Leyland, has won his long struggle with the Government to be allowed to expand his group’s car production in the Midlands rather, than in northern development areas. An industrial development certificate has been issued permitting major expansion of Rover at Solihull, Warwickshire.
This is the second concession won by Lord Stokes. He already holds an IDC for the construction of a new factory for Jaguar at Coventry, A Rover spokesman last night confirmed that the company had been granted an IDC, but declined to indicate the extent of the expansion covered. However it is understood that an application has been submitted to Solihull Council to build a 230,000 sq ft paint plant. This would be one of the largest in the motor industry providing Rover with capacity to handle many times its present production of 2,000 cars and Land Rovers a week.
It is clearly intended as part of a massive increase in Rover car production. Rover is known to be developing a new range of high quality saloons to replace the long-running 2000 and its derivative the 3,500. One new car, code named the P8-was postponed last year because of competing demands on group finances; It is suggested in some quarters that Land Rover production will be moved out of Solilhull by 1975 to make way for increased car production.
Triumph Coventry is thought to be the most likely new home for the Land Rover. But last night a Rover spokesman denied that there were ” any plans at present ” to move Land Rover production.
A company statement said: “We have made planning application to Solihull Council for approval to construct a new paint plant close to the existing North Block factory. This is a long-term project designed to cater for projected new models in the future and to take advantage of the latest technological developments in paint plant and paint processes and to develop furither the Rover high quality image. It is hoped that if planning approval is given work on the project can commence some time next year. But it will not come into operation for at least two to three years. We have already received an IDC for the project.”
Rover owns a considerable amount of land adjoining the Solihull plant which is already zoned for industrial use. This has clearly been the deciding factor in determining Rover’s role in the reorganization of British Leyland’s specialist car division which is now under way. Rover and Triumph management are already closely linked with joint departmental heads in some sectors.
The multiplicity of saloons and sports cars produced by Triumph duplicates some Rover and MG models and is clearly overdue for a clean up. No obvious efforts have yet been made to integrate Jaguar, the third member of the specialist car division. However, with the recent retirement of Sir William Lyons, its chairman, founder and zealous guardian of the independent approach to quality car design, complete integration has been made easier.