Jon Griffin, Birmingham Post, 9 June 2011
Jaguar Land Rover has chosen Wolverhampton to base its new 800,000 sq ft engine plant in the biggest single boost to West Midlands manufacturing for a generation. Bosses at the record-breaking vehicle maker have earmarked the new i54 Business Park at Pendeford as the site for a new engine facility to help drive the company’s burgeoning sales success.
The new plant will create about 600 new jobs and up to 400 more in the supply chain, the biggest single investment in West Midland manufacturing since BMW launched its engine plant at Hams Hall more than a decade ago. Jaguar Land Rover aims to get the engine factory up and running within 18 months and a second engine plant of a smaller capacity is set to be built in India as part of an overall £800 million vote of confidence by Tata in the Midlands firm.
It is understood that Tata Motors’ Chief Executive Carl-Peter Forster and Jaguar Land Rover Chief Executive Ralf Speth – the duo who have transformed the firm’s fortunes in just over a year – met union officials to discuss the plans this week.
No official announcement has yet been made as Jaguar Land Rover lobbies the Government for financial aid towards the project while unions are still locked in talks over terms and conditions for the Wolverhampton site. However, a highly-placed source said: ‘They have got to buy the land by the end of June and they have got a good price on that. It’s absolutely fantastic news.
‘They were looking at three sites, including one in Newport, South Wales, and one in Cardiff – they may have been looking for grants from the Welsh Assembly. They even looked at the Ryton site in Coventry which had great road access but that was written off pretty quickly and they chose the site in Wolverhampton in the end.
‘This is brilliant for manufacturing, both from a national point of view, and particularly from the West Midlands point of view. We are talking about a total investment of £800 million across both plants for Wolverhampton and India.’
They have got to buy the land by the end of June and they have got a good price on that. It’s absolutely fantastic news… This is brilliant for manufacturing, both from a national point of view, and particularly from the West Midlands point of view. We are talking about a total investment of £800 million across both plants for Wolverhampton and India.” A ‘highly-placed source’
The investment is the biggest boost for the region’s manufacturing sector since BMW launched its own engine plant at Hams Hall, near Coleshill, over 10 years ago. Since then, the West Midlands has lost tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs as the sector has shrunk drastically in the face of overseas competition and falling sales, with major casualties including MG Rover, LDV, HP Sauce, the Alstom train-making plant, Jaguar at Browns Lane, Peugeot at Ryton and many others.
The i54 site facility plan follows a remarkable sales turnaround for Jaguar Land Rover in just over a year, transforming losses of tens of millions of pounds into profits of £1.1 billion in the year to 31 March. The increase has been driven by a huge rise in Jaguar and Land Rover sales in China and emerging markets, the success of new models such as the Jaguar XJ and favourable foreign exchange rates.
The vehicle maker needs a new engine plant to help overcome a shortage of supplies from Ford, which has left the US group struggling to keep pace with demand. The lack of a British-based supply chain has forced car makers in the UK such as Nissan and Toyota to import a large number of components, leaving them trailing behind competitors.
Last summer about 50 Jaguar workers enjoyed a six-week holiday when some parts suppliers to the XF and XJ models were unable to keep up with demand. Extra four-week holidays were offered to workers at Castle Bromwich at 80 per cent pay rates to balance supply and demand. Just before Christmas Jaguar cut the night shift for XF workers in the run-up to the festive season due to ‘ongoing supply issues” involving engines from Ford.
The source said the Wolverhampton plant would provide smaller engines to supplement a continuing supply of components from Ford. ‘They would still take the bigger engines from Ford – this opens another market up for them.’
Tata has a vast range of new models in the pipeline at Jaguar Land Rover to bolster the new sales drive, with up to 40 new cars, derivatives and major technologies over the next five years.
A Jaguar Land Rover spokesman said: ‘Jaguar Land Rover has ambitious plans for growth and there are many matters related to that. We do not comment on speculation so have nothing to add.’
[Source: Birmingham Post]
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