Halewood's Freelander 2 is to be built in India for the first time following a deal announced last year by Tata, the Indian owner of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). The 4x4 is being partially-assembled in kit form, transported by rail to Felixstowe and shipped to Tata’s facility in Pune, about a four-hour drive from Mumbai in the west of the country, for final assembly and sale. A plant spokesman said the contract has added about 20 new jobs which have been created at Halewood connected to assembling the vehicles destined for India. JLR has said that around 2,000 Freelanders a year will be assembled at Pune in India. Land Rover has operated similar assembly and shipping contracts for 40 years in places like Kenya, Malaysia, Turkey and Pakistan for its Midlands-built Land Rover Defender model.
Although the Halewood deal was announced last year, more details were released at this week’s Geneva Motor Show. The decision to build some Freelander models in India is no threat to UK jobs, the company has said. The parts for the vehicle will be produced at JLR's plant at Halewood on Merseyside and then sent out to India for assembly. It has been suggested that the Freelander news could lead to other JLR vehicles being built in India but a JLR spokeswoman said, 'There are no threats to jobs in the UK.'
JLR is owned by Indian company Tata, which also owns Corus Steel and Tetley Tea. JLR is rapidly becoming the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the company, which bought the carmaker for more than £1billion and is spending as much again each year on investments in it. Last year, JLR produced around 55,000 Freelanders at Halewood and sold a total of 417 Land Rovers and a handful of Jaguars in India last year but is looking to widely expand its turnover in one of the world’s most potentially lucrative markets. The company already has seven dealerships in Pune. Bosses at the company stressed that the decision to build in India was a sign of expansion, not an attempt to export jobs to India to exploit cheaper labour.