Jaguar leads British car manufacturing renaissance

The Coventry Cat plans to launch new SUV.

Figures just recently released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed that car manufacturing in the UK hit a total of 1.5 million vehicles, an increase of 1.2% on the previous year and buoyed by a late rally in December.

Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said, “Placed in context, a 1.2% growth in UK car manufacturing in 2014 represents a very successful year. The industry has overcome various challenges, including slower than expected EU recovery and weakness in some global markets.”

Car manufacturing has been a notable success for British industry in recent years, with foreign-owned companies such as Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) attracting big investments and churning out exports to big markets such as India, China and even the US of A. In the same period, there has also been a rapid shift to upmarket products, with the value of the UK’s car exports rising from about £12 billion in 2004 to more than £26 billion last year on fairly similar number of cars exported. In fact, the average value of each car exported has risen from £10,200 to £21,800.

Of the 1.5 million cars manufactured, almost four out of five new cars produced in Britain in 2014 were exported, with China becoming the second biggest market for British-made vehicles where 12% of the vehicles went. Although, the fourth biggest destination, Russia, was proven to be a bit more challenging.

“More than £7 billion of investment into UK production facilities has been announced in the past two years, and we are now seeing the effects as new models begin production – with more expected in 2015. UK car manufacturing is now more diverse than ever, with a unique combination of volume, premium and specialist brands giving our products truly global appeal,” Hawes said.

Jaguar Land Rover managed to produce just under 450,000 vehicles last year from its three plants in Castle Bromwich, Halewood and Solihull. And despite having suspended deliveries to Russia, the Coventry Cat (aka Jaguar) is set to venture into the SUV business with its all-new Jaguar F-Pace, which is based on its C-X17 concept car last seen at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2013.

In a way, the surprise is not that Jaguar is launching an SUV but, more to the point, why has it been so slow in doing so seeing as it also owns one of the innovators of SUV’s, Land Rover.

Jaguar Land Rover’s UK executive director, Mike Wright, said the new vehicle would not be a ‘gas guzzler’. “We spend about £3.5 billion on our product investment each year and one thing that we really focus on is making sure that our future cars are both economic in terms of fuel economy, in terms of CO2.

“This car’s going to be built at one of the world’s biggest aluminium body shops at Solihull that we’ve invested a huge amount of money in over the last couple of years, so gas guzzling? No. Jaguar Land Rover has chosen the UK as its manufacturing base for the new model as it wanted its cars to be crafted with that special British flair.”

Jaguar Land Rover was not the largest UK-based manufacturer though. That accolade goes to Nissan who rolled out some 500,238 vehicles from its plant in Sunderland despite a close-down for technical reasons during the year. The SMMT expects the number of cars built in the UK to continue rising and, by 2017, break the all-time car production record set back in the 1970’s.

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