The facility, codenamed Project Fern, would have benefitted from locally-produced aluminium from the world’s largest aluminium smelter on the Gulf Coast. Discussions had been underway since 2012, with aims to manufacture 50,000 vehicles a year by 2017.
Exact reasons for scrapping Project Fern are not clear, but suggestions made by the FT indicate local hindrances, rather than the move being a symptom of policy change at a global level.
Difficulties cited range from a possible disagreement between JLR and Saudi officials as to how operation would be run, to the problem of keeping desert sand out of the assembly line. JLR’s incompatibility with strict Saudi rules on gender segregation in the workplace were also a potential problem.
The MENA region is a key area of growth for JLR. The first Land Rover Experience Centre in the Middle East was opened earlier this year, and sales for the region were up 17% between April and June for this 2015 compared to 2014.
Current disruptions in the Chinese car market, which resulted JLR in suffering a 27% sales dip in the first half of this year, the company is proceeding with its intention to open other new factories worldwide. Plans to build a new plant in Slovakia, which aims to manufacture 300,000 vehicles a year in the next decade, were recently confirmed. A factory has also been under construction in Brazil since late 2014.