Jaguar Land Rover to create 700 new jobs at i54 plant

People in the Black Country said there would be huge competition for jobs at Jaguar Land Rover

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Jaguar Land Rover is to invest a further £150m to double the size of its unfinished engine plant in the West Midlands, creating 700 additional jobs.

The company aims to raise the eventual number of jobs on the i54 business park on the Staffordshire-Wolverhampton border to more than 1,400.

The first engines are scheduled to come off the production line in 2015.

Jaguar Land Rover's initial plans set out in 2011 were for a £355m investment and nearly 750 jobs.

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), which has its headquarters at Gaydon, Warwickshire, said total investment at the i54 site would now be more than £500m.

The company has also announced spending of £2.75bn on further product development.

Executive director Mike Wright said i54 was a major part of the company's long term plans.

"Since the original announcement was made in 2011 we've been able to look at our plans, look at potential for our products around the world and as a result of that analysis we've decided to put even more capacity into the engine manufacturing centre, invest more money and create more jobs," he said.

'Vote of confidence'

The firm reported a 30% increase in global sales last year, selling 357,773 vehicles to 177 different countries.

Sales in the Chinese market have risen 80% in the past year, the company said.

Analysis

Jaguar production line

Today's news brings yet more evidence of the rapid growth that is being seen in oversees markets and Jaguar Land Rover's drive to meet the demand.

JLR wants to double the output of its new engine factory, even before it has finished building it.

If nothing else, it shows that even the best estimates of growth made two years ago have proved to be far too cautious.

The fact is JLR, and particularly Land Rover, can not build their cars fast enough and plants like Lode Lane in Solihull are now running 24 hours a day to make enough vehicles.

Three years ago there were concerns that either Lode Lane or the Jaguar factory at Castle Bromwich might have to be closed because of lack of demand and overcapacity within JLR's three factories.

Soon the company will have another West Midlands plant making engines. It is something even seasoned car industry observers would never have predicted following such a severe recession.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said it was "good news for UK manufacturing".

"With 2.5 million engines produced in this country last year, the UK has established a reputation as a leading global engine manufacturer," he said.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the news was a "fantastic boost for manufacturing".

"This is a massive vote of confidence in the skills of the UK workforce.

"JLR's investment will generate quality jobs in the West Midlands and is a much-needed shot in the arm for Britain's struggling manufacturing sector," he said.

Ninder Johal from the Black Country Chamber of Commerce said: "Jaguar Land Rover didn't come to the Black Country because they felt like it, they came here for a specific reason, the skills are here, the supply chain is here and logistically it's easy to get your products in and out."

Unemployment figures showed that about 12,500 people are claiming job seekers allowance in Wolverhampton.

Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East, Pat McFadden, said the investment could put "a real dent" in those figures.

"I think this is a challenge for the city to make sure that we are producing people equipped to take advantage of this investment.

"If you talk to local employers they do talk about skill shortages but this should be the thing that galvanises us to address any lack of readiness of the local workforce."

Staffordshire County Council is investing £18.5m to build a dedicated road junction on the M54 for access to the plant, which will be matched by investment from Wolverhampton City Council.

A joint statement by the two councils and South Staffordshire Council said thousands more jobs would be created for the supply chain.

"We are delighted that Jaguar Land Rover is strengthening its commitment to the i54 South Staffordshire site before construction of the main facility has even been completed," they said.

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