JLR boss warns Brexit could ‘destroy’ company’s electric vision

Jaguar Land Rover's (JLR) chief executive has issued a stark warning to Theresa May that a hard Brexit could cost his firm more than £1.2bn a year and "destroy" investment in electric vehicle (EV) production.

Speaking at the world’s first zero-emissions EV summit in Birmingham yesterday (11 September), Dr Ralf Speth also warned about the economic impact of a “no-deal” scenario on his Midlands-based firm, which currently produces 3,000 cars a day.

“We are dependent on just-in-time processes and any friction at our borders could mean stopping production at a cost of £60m a day,” he said. “Frictionless trade is not an aspiration but a necessity for JLR and the export industry. Unfettered access to the single market is as an important part to our business as wheels are to our cars.”

JLR, which sells 45% of its UK production in Europe, has cited Brexit as part of a decision to reduce production output for its Discovery Sport and Range Rover Evoque models, which are produced at JLR’s Halewood plant in Merseyside.

And yesterday, Speth told the PM and other members of the cabinet who attended the summit that tens of thousands of jobs were under threat “if we don’t find the right solution” on Brexit.

“Hard Brexit will cost JLR more than £1.2bn a year – it’s horrifying, wiping our profit, destroying investment in the autonomous, connected, electric vision we want to share.”

‘Demonising diesel’

JLR has pledged that from 2020 it will stop the production of petrol of diesel to focus on fully electric and hybrid vehicles, a decision partly influenced by UK Government plans to ban all new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040 and new taxes on diesel vehicles.

Speth questioned the Government’s hardline stance on diesel, citing a knock-on effect on jobs, economic growth and the environment.

“Public policy sometimes seems to know what it is against, rather than what it is for,” Speth said. “The diesel models that we produce at Euro 6 standards are some of the cleanest cars ever made and produce 20-35% less CO2. Yet, they have been demonised.

“No incentive has been put in place to encourage drivers to change from older polluting cars, but a disincentive has been placed on the newer cleaner models through tougher regulations and taxation. “The resulting implications are significant for customers, the environment and industry and even the Exchequer. It has cost jobs.”

Speth welcomed certain aspects of the UK’s EV policy, in particular the £246m battery technology investment known as the Faraday Challenge, but was critical of the EV charging infrastructure in place across the UK.

He aimed his remarks directly at the PM, who later delivered a speech to champion the UK’s leadership role in the development of zero-emission vehicles – including the announcement of a new £106m research fund.

The summit included addresses from leading manufacturers including Nissan and Toyota, as well as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), whose director-general Carolyn Fairbairn described the transition to zero-emissions EVs as “the greatest set of technical challenges since the space race”.

George Ogleby

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