The much-needed boost to the UK car industry will secure around 2,500 jobs at JLR’s Castle Bromwich site, and around a further 8,000 in the local supply chain.
While JLR, which is owned by one of India’s largest companies Tata, focused this morning’s announcement on the production of a new all-electric XJ, the flagship luxury car in its range, the i has learned the new platform will also be used to produce a new large 4×4 Jaguar to sit above its existing iPace, and will also see the production of electric Range Rovers and Land Rover Discovery vehicles.
The new electric Jaguar 4×4 will compete directly against Tesla Model X, while the new XJ, which have a range of more than 300 miles on a single charge, will take on rival luxury electric saloons from European rivals such as Mercedes and BMW.
The Castle Bromwich plant will close for six weeks so new equipment can be installed, and employees will shift to four-day 37-hour week as part of restructuring plans.
Batteries from Warwickshire, motors from Wolverhampton
Batteries for the new electric XJ, and other vehicles across the JLR range, will be made in Hams Hall, Warwickshire, while the electric motors will be manufactured at JLR’s engine plant near Wolverhampton.
Dr Ralph Speth, chief executive of JLR, said: “The future of mobility is electric and as a visionary British company, we are committed to making our next generation of zero-emission vehicles in the UK.”
The Government and union leaders welcomed the news as a “fantastic boost” to the car industry. JLR said its announcement was the next significant step in delivering on the company’s commitment to offer customers electrified options for all new Jaguar and Land Rover models from 2020.
The XJ has been in production for 50 years and has been popular with business leaders, celebrities, politicians and royalty and has been exported to more than 120 countries.
The news was given to workers at Castle Bromwich as production of the current XJ comes to an end today.
Dr Speth said: “We are co-locating our electric vehicle manufacture, electronic drive units and battery assembly to create a powerhouse of electrification in the Midlands.”
‘A vote of confidence in the UK’
JLR said the new battery assembly centre at Hams Hall, operational in 2020, will be the most innovative and technologically advanced in the UK with a capacity of 150,000 units.
Castle Bromwich will become the UK’s first premium electrified vehicle plant, said the company, adding that work will start later this month to install new facilities and technologies.
Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “Today’s announcement is a vote of confidence in the UK automotive industry – protecting thousands of skilled jobs. It reflects our determination for the UK to be at the forefront of the development and manufacturing of the next generation of electric vehicles.
“The Government has made a big strategic choice in its industrial strategy to be a leading force in the move to electric vehicles, investing and building on our research strengths in the Faraday Challenge and the Battery Industrialisation Centre. We are now perfectly placed to host a gigafactory and we are determined to realise that ambition.
“JLR’s announcement recognises the strength of the excellent workforce at Castle Bromwich and acknowledges the efforts of many parties, including the Government and the mayor, Andy Street, to invest and build a sustainable future in the region for advanced manufacturing, safeguarding jobs and skills.”
‘World-beating car workers’
Unite union assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Today’s trailblazing announcement is testament to the skill and hard work of Unite members and shop stewards.
“Not only is it a fantastic boost to the UK car industry, but it ensures that Jaguar Land Rover’s Castle Bromwich site remains a powerhouse of the regional economy, providing a living for thousands of workers and supporting many more in the supply chain.
“This is a proud day for our members and Jaguar Land Rover. The Government and Theresa May’s replacement as prime minister must make sure it is not the last for the UK’s world-beating car workers and their families.”
Rebecca Long Bailey, shadow business secretary, said: “This is welcome news for the workers at JLR and a ray of hope for the automotive sector at this difficult time.
“However, the fact remains that overall investment in UK automotive is plummeting and global players are choosing to invest in electrification elsewhere.
“The Government must urgently work with industry and trade unions to ensure this investment from JLR is a model to other manufacturers and not an exception.”
UK lagging behind
David Bailey, a professor of business economics at Birmingham Business School, added the Government has to invest in the electric vehicle charging structure in the UK if projects such as Jaguar’s electrification are to be a success.
“The UK is lagging behind the rest of Europe when it comes to providing the infrastructure for electric cars,” said Professor Bailey. “We’ve only just got our first fast charging points in Sunderland, which can fully charge an electric car in between five and ten minutes, but we’re going to need huge investment if we’re going to be ready for all the new electric cars coming to the market.”
Professor Bailey added the government has also been sending out the “wrong signals” on electric car ownership by reducing the subsidy available for buyers of green cars from £4,500 to £3,500 last October. The £2,500 subsidy for plug-in hybrid vehicles, which use both petrol and electric power, was cut entirely.
JLR’s announcement comes a day after a report showed that in June sales of low emission cars had fallen for the first time in more than two years.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said the fall in alternatively fuelled cars, such as hybrid electric vehicles, was “a grave concern”. It said efforts to sell such cars were being undermined by confusing policies and the “premature” removal of subsidies.
Professor Bailey added: “The Government is currently out of step with other nations in Europe and needs to beef up its industrial strategy if we’re going to be ready to build, buy and drive electric cars.”
While JLR’s announcement is welcome news, Brexit uncertainty has hit the UK’s motor industry hard in recent months.
Investment in the UK car sector almost halved last year and output tumbled as Brexit fears put firms on “red alert”, the industry’s trade body said.
Inward investment fell 46.5% to £588.6m last year from £1.1bn in 2017, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says. In 2015, car manufacturers invested £2.5bn in the UK.
Production fell 9.1 per cent to 1.52m vehicles, with output for the UK and for export falling 16.3 per cent and 7.3 per cent respectively.
Brexit uncertainty has “done enormous damage” said SMMT chief Mike Hawes.
Germany Volkswagen alone is investing £70bn in Europe, the US and China, but nothing in the UK. Last week, Vauxhall said it would produce its new Astra at Ellesmere Port in the north west of England only if the UK avoided a no deal Brexit.