Jaguar Land Rover wants Midlands to act as electric vehicle hub

Britain's largest carmaker Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has provided a potential boost to the post-Brexit manufacturing sector, after the company's chief executive suggested that the UK should act as a central hub for JLR's electric vehicle (EV) ambitions.

JLR revealed last week (24 November), that it is aiming to more than double its 40,000-strong global workforce, which would see around 10,000 new jobs created in the Midlands in order to catalyse JLR’s battery and research and development (R&D) production.

Speaking at an event at the University of Warwick, JLR’s chief executive Ralf Speth told reporters: “We want to build our EVs in the West Midlands, in the home of our design and engineering.”

However, Speth claimed that the UK didn’t have the current capacity to produce EVs and batteries at speed on the scale JLR requires. He also noted that the an altered legislative framework would be needed to develop the cars, due to the UK’s high business costs compared to other countries.

The Indian-owned manufacturer was responsible for around a third of the 1.6 million cars that were built in the UK last year, and has since revealed plans for its first foray into the EV sphere with the I-Pace concept.

JLR is working with the Warwick Manufacturing Group – which forms part of the University – to develop the batteries for the I-Pace, although these will be developed in Austria, alongside the new EV. The I-Pace will go on sale in 2018, and will form the foundation of JLR’s plans to have 40% of its vehicle portfolio consisting of an electrified option by 2020.

Brexit ambitions

Fortunately for the UK Government, JLR’s signal of intent arrives just days after the Chancellor Philip Hammond announced an extra £390m in funding would go towards “future transport technology” in the UK, including driverless cars, renewable fuels and energy-efficient transport.

JLR’s confirmation that it wishes to increase work output in the midlands will undoubtedly provide a boost for the manufacturing and transport sectors during the ‘uncertainty of Brexit’.

While some groups and outlets are concerned about the UK’s ability to attract and even retain businesses after it leaves the European Union (EU), JLR is now the second carmaker to pledge new projects in the country.

Nissan recently revealed that two new car models would be built at its solar-powered Sunderland plant, in a move that could safeguard 7,000 jobs. Nissan agreed to the new UK-based production line after receiving assurances from business secretary Greg Clark, although the European Commission are questioning these promises.

Dimes from Daimler

JLR’s announcement arrives as German luxury carmaker Daimler told a national newspaper that it was planning to invest more than £8.5bn into developing a range of EVs.

The company’s head of R&D, Thomas Weber, told the Stuttgarter Zeitung’s Saturday edition that 10 new EV models could be introduced by 2025. The cars are mooted to be Smart-branded vehicles with ranges of around 700km.

Matt Mace

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