Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is keen to build Freelanders in China. The carmaker currently makes the top selling model at its Halewood plant in Knowsley, alongside the Range Rover Evoque. The Halewood plant director Richard Else has vowed that any China manufacturing plant would not impact on its Knowsley operation or jobs there. He revealed JLR’s dream for a China car plant during a roundtable discussion on manufacturing at the Liver Building offices of accountants Grant Thornton.
Richard Else said that 'China is now JLR’s third biggest sales market, and its most profitable', drawing the question from Grant Thornton partner Neil Sturmey, 'Why don’t you make cars in China?”
Else replied, 'Watch this space.'
He continued that, 'at the moment it is a matter of great pride among the Chinese that they can afford to buy a UK-built car but that will change, as foreign- owned car plants in China match, and even exceed, quality standards of their European owners.There’s a thing about buying premium products in China. It demonstrates your status.
Lessons can be learned from VW that has been in China for 25 years where its plants are not only as good as some of the German plants but some are better. Else added, 'In our market, we will need to make cars out there. We probably won’t be selling Jaguar XJs and Range Rovers out there, but we would love to be making Freelanders.'
Halewood already ships out Freelander kits from its production lines in completely knock-down form to its own plant in Pune, India, where the cars are then assembled for sale in a steadily growing market for the car maker. The company says this has not had any effect on Freelander production levels at its Halewood plant, although any Chinese operation would involve a plant for manufacture rather than assembly.