Lindsay Chappell, Automotive News Europe
Jaguar Land Rover is considering a North American auto plant to keep up with growing world demand for luxury vehicles. News of the possible expansion was confirmed by Tata Motors Chairman Emeritus, Ratan Tata, who led his Indian company’s 2008 acquisition of the British luxury marques from Ford Motor.
“The company is indeed looking at North America as a location for another plant,” Tata told the South Carolina Automotive Summit last Tuesday. “Where they locate that plant, in which country or which state they locate, is something they will need to decide.”
Tata declined to say specifically where Jaguar Land Rover is looking — or whether its site search includes countries elsewhere in the world. However, his comments bring clarity to anonymously sourced media reports early this month saying Georgia officials were seeking to land a Jaguar Land Rover factory. Last week, England’s Birmingham Post cited unnamed company sources saying Austria and Turkey were being explored, not the U.S.
Tata emphasized that he is not part of the decision-making process on the site selection. He retired as Chairman of the family controlled Tata conglomerate in late 2012, although he continues to oversee the Indian company’s philanthropic activities, which has seats on Tata’s corporate board.
His remarks at Tuesday’s conference came via an interview with Keith Crain, Editor-in-Chief of Detroit-based Automotive News.
Late to the game
The luxury company would be late in the game of premium brands investing in North American assembly plants. BMW opened a plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in 1994, and rival Mercedes-Benz began building SUVs in Vance, Alabama, in 1997. Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus brand began producing SUVs in Ontario in 2003. Acura and Infiniti both produce key models in the United States.
Mexico has attracted two significant premium brand factory projects over the past two years. Audi is now constructing a $1.3 billion plant in Puebla, Mexico, to serve as the global source for its Q5 crossover vehicles. Last year, Nissan Motor Corp. and Daimler AG revealed that they will construct a $1.4 billion factory in Aguascalientes, Mexico. That plant will deliver 150,000 Mercedes-Benz vehicles a year and 150,000 Infiniti vehicles a year starting in 2017.
Jaguar Land Rover has been expanding its manufacturing and engineering footprint steadily ever since Tata’s acquisition. Last year, Jaguar Land Rover expanded outside of the UK for the first time, opening a new plant in China in partnership with China’s Chery Automobile. Some of that factory’s output will be exported to other markets. The company is also building an assembly plant to supply Brazil for Latin American sales.
In January, Jaguar Land Rover officials revealed that they anticipate selling more than 500,000 vehicles globally for the first time in 2015. Worldwide sales rose 9 percent last year to 462,678.
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