Queen Elizabeth opens new Tata JLR plant in UK

Written by PTI | Wolverhampton | Updated: Oct 31 2014, 01:51am hrs
JLRJLR is in a position to boost the automotive industry in Central England as it begins in-house engine production after nearly two decades. (Reuters)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II drove up in a Tata Motors' Range Rover to inaugurate a new 500-million pound Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) engine plant here in the West Midlands region of England today.

The Queen, accompanied by husband Duke of Edinburgh and Tata Trusts chairman Ratan Tata, toured the state-of-the-art Engine Manufacturing Centre at i54 Business Park site near Wolverhampton before unveiling the inaugural plaque.

"This marks one of the most important days in this company's manufacturing history. It represents all that is great about British manufacturing and demonstrates the revitalisation of the Jaguar Land Rover business under the stewardship of the Tata Group," said Dr Ralf Speth, JLR CEO who led the royal guests on the tour of the new centre.

The 88-year-old Queen also met the employees currently employed at the plant, which will create 500 new jobs by 2015 and an estimated 1,400 jobs by 2016.

Eventually, the world-class centre is expected to generate a total of 5,500 jobs in the supply chain as part of the company's strategic investment programme under Tata Motors ownership.

The opening has been described as a seminal moment in history for the iconic luxury car-maker rescued by the Indian automotive giant back in 2008, when it stepped in to acquire the struggling brands from Ford.

After just six years, JLR is in a position to boost the automotive industry in Central England as it begins in-house engine production after nearly two decades since it last produced its own engines in April 1996.

It marks a remarkable turnaround from production and job cuts to nearly doubling sales and jobs under the firm's Indian ownership, recently recording a 2013/14 pre-tax profit of 2.5 billion pounds, up from 1.7 billion pounds a year before.

Together the royal group viewed the sprawling 100,000 square metre machining and assembly halls and also met a number local school children who have embarked on Jaguar Land Rover's industry leading educational engineering apprenticeship programmes.

The new engines that will now be produced at the new centre by JLR are currently sourced from PSA (Peugeot Citroen) as part of a PSA and Ford joint venture and are currently produced in France and Spain.

While JLR will continue sourcing its other engines from Ford in the long-term, the in-house production is aimed at making the luxury brand more competitive and flexible to respond to market needs and eventually future-proof its models.

JLR executive director Mike Wright explained: "It is a very significant step in our development and global growth.

It opens up the opportunity to attract a whole new series of customers and gives us strategic control over design and engineering as well as manufacturing and for any automotive player, that is a very important strategic step."

In reference to Tata Motors' contribution, he said: "Under the Tata ownership we've been encouraged to fulfil the potential that both brands offer. There's tremendous pride in what's been achieved and there is a lot of excitement for the future."

The Engine Manufacturing Centre will be home to the next-generation Ingenium engine family, which will power a new generation of Jaguar Land Rover products designed, engineered and manufactured in the UK with nearly 80 per cent exported around the world.

This starts with the 2.0-litre Diesel engine, which rolls off the production line early next year destined for the new Jaguar XE. The factory is designed to churn out an engine every 42 seconds once production gets into full swing.

The XE model is the newest version of Jaguar, which is expected to be a game-changer for the brand in global markets including India, where it is likely to shoot up sales from the current 3,000 a year with this relatively "affordable" Jag priced at around 26,500 pounds.

Jaguar Land Rover is drawing on the expertise of 2,000 power train engineers, who will deliver the new highly efficient, ultra-low emission 4-cylinder petrol and diesel engines at the new centre.

"These engines will be Jaguar Land Rover's most advanced ever, making us the most significant automotive investor in the UK today. It marks a renaissance in British manufacturing," said Dr Wolfgang Ziebart, JLR Group engineering director.

Jaguar Land Rover broke ground on the new centre's i54 Business Park site on the outskirts of the city of Wolverhampton in June 2012 and has been in the making for over three years since its announcement in September 2011.

The plant is the equivalent size of 14 football pitches and houses an engine-testing centre alongside manufacturing and assembly halls, and claims to meet the highest standards of sustainable production.

The facility is also home to the largest rooftop solar panel installation in the UK, comprising around 21,000 individual panels.

It is estimated that these panels will generate more than 30 per cent of the plant's energy requirements - providing the same amount of energy required to power 1,600 homes.

Trevor Leeks, Operations Director of the centre, said: "Our vision is to transform the way engines are manufactured and establish a benchmark in excellence, with employees at the heart of everything we do."