Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has announce plans for a major new engine plant in the West Midlands. The development, which is expected to take up to two years, will be on the i54 business park in Wolverhampton, confirmed as one of several new enterprise zones in July. The same site has recently been selected as one of the region's first Enterprise Zones where companies will pay lower taxes - tax breaks worth up to £275,000 - and benefit from relaxed planning regulations. Wolverhampton City Council said, after confirmation from the government in July, that it hoped the new zone would create almost 4000 new jobs by 2015 in advanced manufacturing for the automotive and aerospace industries. JLR was previously believed to be considering sites in South Wales and India. It is believed the engine plant will employ hundreds of people. The business park is part of a 120-hectare site in Darlaston and Wolverhampton North, in the Black Country.
The BBC has been saying that this has been one of JLR's worst kept secrets during recent weeks. It appears that Wolverhampton's i54 site was considered a favourite from the start, although it has taken several months to get to a position where plans for the new plant can finally be announced. Big investment programmes by big companies can, and often do, attract government funding and it appears that the approval of some form of grant for JLR has proved to be the final piece in the jigsaw. The i54 site is seen as one of the best places to put the plant because JLR has factories in the West Midlands and on Merseyside. JLR's headquarters is in Gaydon, Warwickshire with Land Rovers produced in Solihull and Halewood, Merseyside and Jaguar models produced at Castle Bromwich, near Birmingham. The i54 business park sits close to the junction of the M54 and M6, an ideal location from which to serve both areas.
JLR currently buys its engines from Ford from sites including Bridgend and Dagenham, but with up to 40 new models in the pipeline, the company needs its own supply of engines, hence the investment. In addition to the plant in Wolverhampton, there is expected to be a similar factory in India. Ratan Tata, chairman of JLR's owner, Tata, has talked about plans for a second plant during recent interviews in India. Jaguar and Land Rover are spending about £7bn on new models, engines and technology over the next five years.
The plans for both plants provide further evidence of the remarkable turnaround in the company's fortunes after one of the toughest recessions the automotive industry has ever seen. Just last year Jaguar Land Rover announced it was reversing a decision to close one of its two West Midlands factories. Last week, the firm was the star of this year's Frankfurt Motor Show, after it unveiled not one, but three new concept cars on the back of a period of strong sales fuelled, partly, by a growing number of orders from foreign markets, including China and India.