Jaguar Land Rover is to move production of the Land Rover Discovery away from the UK to a plant in Slovakia, as part of a new manufacturing strategy.
The move will mean a number of job losses at the company’s facility in Solihull, near Birmingham, but will allow the factory to be retooled for future vehicle development.
‘This significant investment and technology upgrade in Solihull in order to accommodate our next-generation of flagship Land Rover models, and the refit of our Halewood plant for the next Evoque, is proof that we remain committed both to the UK and to transformation and growth,’ the manufacturer said in a statement.
‘The decision to move the Land Rover Discovery to Slovakia and the potential losses of some agency employed staff in the UK is a tough one but forms part of our long-term manufacturing strategy as we transform our business globally.’
While manufacturing in the UK is under the spotlight with Brexit throwing up more questions than answers at present, the move is simply due to JLR’s ambitions to increase the number of electrified models it offers in its range. Solihull will be retooled to accommodate a new generation of electric vehicles, with Jaguar’s first EV, the I-Pace, launching early next year.
Although retooling plans have yet to be confirmed, it would signify a big investment in the UK plant, something the country could do with as questions over the effect of Brexit remain. While agency staff may have to be laid off during the project, once complete, staffing will again need to be increased, with skilled and trained operators for EV building.
After its makeover, the plant will produce the new Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models. The manufacturer will build the next of its Range Rover Evoque models at a site in Halewood in northern England, where the Discovery Sport is also made.
The Slovakian site, which is fitted out to produce up to 150,000 vehicles, but with the capacity to expand to another 150,000 if needed, is JLR’s first major non-UK factory. It gives the manufacturer the opportunity to produce models at scale outside of its home country. The Slovakia site is also expected to produce the next generation of the Land Rover Defender.
Production of the Land Rover Discovery Sport, a smaller version of the SUV that uses different manufacturing tools from the Discovery and is JLR’s biggest model selling 120,000 cars a year, will remain in the UK.
The company announced in April that it was cutting 1,000 agency staff and production in the UK. ‘In light of the continuing headwinds impacting the car industry, we are making some adjustments to our production schedules and the level of agency staff,’ it said at the time. ‘We are however continuing to recruit large numbers of highly skilled engineers, graduates and apprentices as we over-proportionally invest in new products and technologies. We also remain committed to our UK plants in which we have invested more than £4 billion (€4.6 billion) since 2010 to future proof manufacturing technologies to deliver new models.’