The Queen today visited Wolverhampton today, to officially open Jaguar Land Rover’s £500 million new engine plant. The city won it after tough competition from competing locations and, in a speech, CEO Dr. Ralf Speth praised the region’s collaborative spirit, business focus and excellent workforce.
It was the presence of The Queen, present to reveal a plaque and officially declare the plant open, that drove home just what a significant achievement this new factory is for JLR.
Just a few years back, the company faced severe difficulties. Expansion was not even on the agenda – the firm actually revealed it would have to close a factory in Britain, taking its footprint here from three manufacturing locations down to two.
Instead, today’s plant opening means it has four manufacturing facilities in the UK, not two – and it surely won’t be long before the engine plant follows the others and begins working flat-out around the clock, 24/7, to meet insatiable demand.
JLR’s strategic focus not just on survival but on growth has achieved this. Once it had stabilised the business and happily took the threat of a plant closure off the agenda, it began to start investing in growth and expansion – even when the global economy was in crisis.
How much investment? Try £10 billion over the past five years, revealed manufacturing director Wolfgang Stadler today in Wolverhampton, most of which has been here in the UK in first shoring up the business and then gearing it up to grow.
From now, we’ll see the fruits of that, he added, with “50 significant product actions in the next five years”. The new Wolverhampton-built Ingenium engine will be part of that and, along with the £500 million factory itself, has accounted for a healthy slice of that investment.
Clean sheet means world class
There will undoubtedly be hiccups along the way. The Chinese growth that’s driving much of its expansion to date will eventually temper, for example. But the firm knows this and is ensuring everything it does from now is world class, rather than just good enough, to enable it to fight with the established hierarchy.
Throughout today’s presentation about the new Ingenium engine, the talk was of setting benchmarks: Dr Speth revealed to me that normal engineering tolerances in a plant like this are 50 microns: “We are already on 5 microns…”. Like so much of what it’s now doing, this is a clean sheet design – and if you have such an opportunity, why not try to make the most of it? That’s what JLR is doing.
With a new plant going live in China, and another one confirmed for Brazil, JLR is quickly becoming a truly global business – but this will not be at the expense of the UK, execs today stressed. Britain will remain core to its operations, affirmed by the fact it has double the number of facilities here than it could have, had they not turned the business around.
Since then, JLR has also doubled the number of employees it has over the past five years…
All this is why The Queen, and the Duke of Edinburgh, visited Wolverhampton today. Because Jaguar Land Rover has a strategic business plan that is already delivering huge profits and, as investment in the future starts to bear fruit, will continue to do so going forward. It is putting Britain on the world stage in the ultra-competitive premium car sector and, as Dr. Ralf Speth candidly today admitted, if JLR can grab just a small slice of that market, the business will be in a very good place indeed.
JLR is thriving today and is putting the pieces in place for more of the same tomorrow. The British automotive powerhouse is in very good shape indeed: today’s Royal approval confirms that.