It has been confirmed that the Castle Bromwich Assembly factory in Castle Vale, Birmingham – manufacturer of Jaguar saloon & sports cars, employing around 2,700 people – will begin producing its first EV by terminating production of the current Jaguar XJ model (introduced way back in 1968) and replacing it with an electric version. This transition will involve an investment of hundreds of millions of pounds from the government.
What does this mean for automotive manufacturing in the midlands?
“Without the new electric model, the Castle Bromwich plant would effectively be dead,” said David Bailey, a professor of business economics at Birmingham Business School.
Despite the prospective tariffs due to be imposed on components and parts being imported to the UK in the potential case of a no-deal Brexit, Castle Bromwich’s capacity and proximity to research and development facilities has made it an ideal designated location for the EV investment to take place through the new production plans.
In an official statement released last month, Dr Ralf Speth KBE, Jaguar Land Rover CEO, made some pertinent quotes on the announcement.
“The future of mobility is electric and, as a visionary British company, we are committed to making our next generation of zero-emission vehicles in the UK”
“Convenience and affordability are the two key enablers to drive the uptake of electric vehicles to the levels that we all need… Affordability will only be achieved if we make batteries here in the UK, close to vehicle production, to avoid the cost and safety risk of importing from abroad. The UK has the raw materials, scientific research in our universities and an existing supplier base to put the UK at the leading edge of mobility and job creation”
“JLR is acutely aware of – and somewhat unavoidably exposed to – the headwinds arising from the UK’s impending departure from the EU. Yet it is taking the view that the advantages of building the new electric XJ in the West Midlands, from the existing technology and skills to the strength of the supply chain, outweigh the risks of manufacturing in a market expected to soon be outside the bloc.”
What can we conclude from this announcement?
Amidst recent concerns that the UK is not keeping up with Electric Vehicle development demonstrated by the likes of Germany, the US and Japan, JLR’s announcement is a gesture of dedication to the future of British manufacturing in the automotive industry.
“The planned investment by JLR is welcome good news and a timely reminder that, amid the current uncertainty, investment decisions like this are about keeping an eye on the longer-term picture.” said Stuart Apperley, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking’s Director and Head of UK Automotive.
There is soon to be a new Battery Assembly Centre nearby at Hams Hall (set to be operational in 2020). Furthermore, Jaguar Land Rover Engine Manufacturing Centre is based just less than an hour away in Wolverhampton. A plant that also contributes to the company’s commitment to renewable energy solutions, with over 21,000 photovoltaic panels accounting for over 30% of its energy requirements; reducing its carbon emissions by at least 2,400 tonnes per year.
In addition to protecting thousands of jobs, this plan is the next instalment of JLR’s electrification strategy delivery and another promising response to the government’s Faraday Battery Challenge.
How will JLR encourage demand?
To combat the issue of depleting electric vehicle sales, Sir Ralph Speth was also quoted as saying:
“Charging should be as easy as re-fuelling a conventional vehicle.”
“The current charging infrastructure is not really sufficient to cover the country, nor the hotspots of the cities” as he urged the government to provide more charging points for electric cars.
A principal engineering facility of JLR and headquarters of Land Rover, Jaguar Land Rover Gaydon Centre, Warwickshire, currently has 166 EV charging points.
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