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Jaguar Land Rover fires up Chinese factory

First “fully fledged” JLR factory in China set to make three models by 2016

Land Rover logo23 Oct 2014

By RON HAMMERTON

JAGUAR Land Rover (JLR) has opened its first vehicle factory in China in the first major step of what appears to be a global expansion of its manufacturing capability.

The plant, part of a $A2 billion joint venture investment with Chinese car-maker Chery, has been established in Changshu, on the Yangtze River delta north of Shanghai.

Production kicked off this week with the Range Rover Evoque to be launched on the Chinese market in early 2015, and will be expanded with two other unnamed JLR models by 2016 when production is expected to reach 130,000 vehicles a year.

As well, the company has committed to establishing a research and development facility in the region, apparently to develop China-specific models.

None of the Chinese-built cars are expected to be sold in Australia where all JLR products will continue to be sourced from the company’s three British plants.

Speaking at the Chinese factory, JLR CEO Ralf Speth said the company’s “first fully fledged plant abroad” would make a major contribution to JLR’s penetration of the world’s biggest motor market.

The company – owned by India’s Tata Motors – already has an assembly plant in Pune, India, where it bolts together Land Rover Freelanders and Jaguar XF and XJ sedans from parts made in England.

A similar plant is about to open in Brazil where JLR production is expected to reach 24,000 units a year.

The biggest overseas move might come in the United States where rumours abound of a possible JLR factory in one of the southern states.

Back in the UK, JLR this week is also preparing to welcome Queen Elizabeth to open its new engine plant in Wolverhampton.

The factory will build the new Ingenium family of four-cylinder engines, starting with the 2.0-litre diesel destined for the all-new Jaguar XE.

The global factory plans are designed to put JLR on a more even footing with its mainly German rivals who already have a firm manufacturing footholds in overseas markets.

The Chinese plant will help JLR escape punishing import tariffs on at least some of its British-built vehicles sold in China and thus grow its sales volume from the current 100,000 units a year – JLR’s biggest single market.

To date, one in five Evoques are sold in China. The new Chinese version – complete with badges in Chinese characters – will be launched at the Guangzhou motor show later this year where specifications and pricing are likely to be announced.

The new factory will boast an aluminium body shop – the first in China – to cope with the latest Jaguars that most likely will include the new XE mid-sized sedan.

Hundreds of robots and a state-of-the-art automated paint shop have been installed to ensure quality is high.

To be called Chery Jaguar Land Rover, the Chinese operation was officially inaugurated at a ceremony attended by 800 guests at the new plant.

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