Jaguar Land Rover plans to build a new range of electrified cars in the U.K., safeguarding thousands of jobs and providing a boost for a British automotive industry that’s been rocked by job cuts and plant closures.
The move, announced Friday, involves hundreds of millions of pounds in investments. It guarantees the future of the company’s Castle Bromwich plant in central England and comes after JLR committed to offering electrified options of all new models from 2020. The first vehicle off the production line will be an all-electric version of Jaguar’s flagship XJ saloon.
Brexit, a slowdown in China and flagging demand for diesel-powered vehicles have taken a toll on JLR, which owns the iconic Jaguar sports-car and Land Rover sport-utility brands. The company, part of India’s Tata Motors Ltd., said in January it would slash 4,500 jobs worldwide to conserve cash, and Tata is exploring options for the business, Bloomberg reported in March.
While contending with the slowdown JLR, like other carmakers, is also navigating a costly transition toward electrification. While the Jaguar I-Pace SUV, its first all-electric car, is being made in Austria, the company is retooling part of its Solihull plant to make electric versions of Land Rover’s top-end Range Rover models.
More basic autos are being moved to a lower-cost site in Slovakia, which took over production of the Land Rover Discovery last year and will also make the revived version of the brand’s original Defender model. JLR is showcasing that car at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in camouflage disguise and without revealing whether it will come as a hybrid as standard or feature an all-electric variant.
U.K. Business Secretary Greg Clark called the decision a “vote of confidence” in the U.K. auto sector that would put Britain at the forefront of electric-vehicle technology.
Work will commence this month at the Castle Bromwich plant on facilities and technology that will allow diesel and gasoline vehicles to be produced alongside full electric and hybrid models.
JLR in January confirmed plans to locate a new battery assembly center at Hams Hall, also in the English Midlands. The site will become operational in 2020 with annual capacity for 150,000 units. The company also has an engine plant in nearby Wolverhampton that it says will power the next generation of Jaguar and Land Rover models.