26 May 2005

Land Rover’s Solihull plant fell victim to the anti-4x4 brigade last week when Greenpeace invaded the factory and halted production. Sneaking past security during the 7am shift-change, 35 protesters stopped the production line by chaining themselves to part-built vehicles. Ironically, Land Rover claims to have pushed more vehicles than normal out of Solihull as a result, with affected workers moved to clear backlogs in other areas of the plant. The protesters left peacefully mid-afternoon after more than a dozen were arrested for trespass, but the action stopped £3.8m-worth of cars being built.

A Land Rover insider told Autocar that the company’s top execs had previously met Greenpeace and showed them secret plans to illustrate the company’s commitment to the environment, but it failed to prevent the protest.

‘We’ve taken direct action to stop Land Rover making these gas-guzzling 4x4s’, said Greenpeace executive director Stephen Tindale. However, the campaigners’ credibility took a knock with claims that most Land Rover models ‘will tackle nothing steeper than a speed bump’.

Meanwhile, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has stepped up its defence of the 4x4. Chief executive Christopher Macgowan claims that half of Range Rovers are taken off-road every week and the CO2 output of 4x4s has dropped by 14.6 per cent since 1997, compared with an industry-wide average of 9.6 per cent.

‘Who should tell us what we should drive, as long as we build and drive vehicles responsibly?’ he said.

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