14 September 2004

Production of the Range Rover Sport (right) has been secured for Land Rover’s Solihull plant, following an agreement between management and unions.

Investment can now be committed to put the sporty variant of the new Discovery into production at Solihull, ready for sale in May next year. Land Rover has already invested £200m in a new Discovery line.

A workforce ballot will be held next week to endorse the agreement, but both management and unions are confident the vote will be positive.

The ‘Road Map’ plan will introduce flexible working and higher quality standards, with the aim of matching the quality of Jaguar’s Halewood plant.

Formerly a strife-torn plant, Halewood was transformed in three years to become Ford’s best factory globally in 2003, judged on a number of criteria, and the other two Jaguar plants rated in the top six.

Climbing this mountain will be tough for Solihull’s workforce. Workers will be retrained to be multi-skilled so they can be moved between operations, and will also agree to Japanese-style continuous improvement quality standards, borrowed from the Ford production manual.

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By 2008, Solihull must match Jaguar’s position in the influential JD Power customer satisfaction survey in the US. A second stage, yet to be agreed with Ford, is to challenge Lexus for the top spot by 2010. This latter stage is likely to be tied to investment in the replacement for the current Range Rover.

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