WHAT’S happening with Jaguar Land Rover? I had a personal meeting with Chief Executive David Smith this week to get some answers.
Many families in Solihull are on tenterhooks, wondering whether Solihull or Castle Bromwich will be selected as the preferred site.
David Smith obviously wouldn’t tell me which site they were favouring, but I did get more answers on the future of JLR in the Midlands, which I believe auger well for the future.
The first advantage is they are looking at a much longer term plan than they ever did when owned by Ford. Huge amounts of money are to be invested over the next 10-15 years in changing not just the models but the whole way the cars are designed and made.
Carbon emissions are a huge issue, and the company is committed to a 25% reduction from its vehicles by 2012. Beyond that, there will be further reductions and work on hybrid and electric vehicles is already under way. Before that, however, we will see new lightweight aluminium-bodied vehicles which will knock half a ton off the weight of a Range Rover.
The new lightweight platform represents a huge investment for the company and will enable more vehicles to be built from a common architecture. I think that’s one of the main reasons they want to consolidate into one Midlands site: it would be just too expensive to make the investment into two plants.
One positive factor for Solihull is that the volume of investment needed in the new lightweight platform will be much greater than the potential sale value of the Solihull site. I had been worried that this would count against Solihull being chosen.
One of the major issues is of course jobs. Despite having been reassured there would be no ‘compulsory’ job losses, I pressed David Smith again as to exactly how many jobs there would be on the new site. ‘We’ll need all of them, and if people decide not to transfer, we’ll have to recruit more to replace them’ he told me. So there you have it, from the horse’s mouth.
Unions are unhappy about proposed pension changes and lower pay rates for new starters. However I think JLR staff are in a better situation than many workers in the car industry.
Vauxhall workers have this week agreed to a 2 year pay freeze in order to avoid redundancies. Land Rover workers are still on a 4 day week, but working 37 hours with some overtime and shift premiums.
The upturn in demand has given a boost to supply chain companies, to the extent that they are struggling to keep up with the increase in demand. It’s a nice problem to have. Overall the news is good.
Let’s hope Solihull continues to benefit from having two great marques based in the Borough.