There is a terrible inevitability to today’s announcement by JLR that it will shut one of its Midlands factories by “mid-decade”.
This has been on the cards ever since JLR’s expansion plans went up in smoke around 2002/3, leaving the company with too many plants and not enough models to make.
Notwithstanding the heartache of a workforce that has to live with uncertainty for six months while JLR decides whether to shut Solihull or Castle Bromwich, this tough decision needs to be applauded because without it JLR has a limited future.
The company is planning its future around 300,000 cars a year and two plants - and that is probably about right, although some car companies might say one could do the job.
Two are at least justified of only because JLR is a fiendishly complicated car company and will have at least 17 models and body derivatives in production by mid-decade, seven from LR/RR and ten from Jag.
Even though the number of platforms should at last be heading downwards, until Jag goes all alloy it could still have five or six separate steel and alloy body architectures - two of them alloy.
Discussions I had at Frankfurt suggest that there’s very little technical cross-over possible with Jag’s alloy saloons and sportscars. It’s all to do with the lower seating positions and shallower firewall of the sportscars, I’m told.
Adding in the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport to alloy sums should help the economics though.
If - as expected - Solihull does go, it will mark the end of another remarkable chapter in Britain’s industrial heritage.
The site was established in WW2 as a ‘shadow’ plant a safe distance from Coventry, whose industrial might had attracted the unwelcome attention of the Luftwaffe.
It was staffed and run by Rover and played a crucial part in the early development of the jet engine when Rover engineers were drafted in to develop Frank Whittle’s breakthrough design.
When war ended, Rover’s bombed out Coventry plant wasn’t fit to re-start car production, so the company took on Solihull and hovered-up 200 prime acres of surrounding farmland for future expansion, buying up a further 100 acres in subsequent years.
That prescient decision taken 60 years now looks to have sealed Solihull’s fate, because you can build an awful lot of houses on 300 acres of prime development land.
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