Jaguar Land Rover choosing to make EVs in Europe rather than UK would be ‘catastrophic’
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Jaguar Land Rover is reportedly “exploring all options” on the supply of batteries for their electric vehicles (EVs) as the UK is currently failing to deliver on their requirements. Tata Motors, which owns Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), is reportedly in talks with foreign battery makers Northvolt and SVolt Energy Technology, to source key supplies for their vehicles.
And now an automotive expert has said that such a move would be “catastrophic” for the UK car industry.
Recent speculation is that the car maker could instead put its factory in Slovakia at the heart of its electric car manufacturing.
The state-of -the-art plant in Nitra is where the new Land Rover Defender and Land Rover Discovery are currently made.
The UK currently lacks a major electric vehicle battery manufacturing centre with just one gigafactory planned in Sunderland.
Warwickshire automotive expert Dr Charles Tennant is a former chief engineer at Land Rover and also sat on the board of Tata Technologies.
He explained: “Recent media reports have worryingly suggested that Jaguar Land Rover is in talks with Swedish cell maker Northvolt and German based unit of China’s SVolt Energy to consider supplying batteries for a suite of electric vehicles (EV) that may be manufactured at their Nitra assembly plant in Slovakia.
“Whilst this would be catastrophic for the UK automotive industry – and the Jaguar Land Rover workforce – it has not been ruled out by Jaguar Land Rover, who have said that they are continuing to explore all options for EV battery supply and no decisions have been ratified yet.
“Of course, it could be that Jaguar Land Rover’s Indian owners – Tata Motors – are trying to hold a gun to the UK Government’s head to secure taxpayer support for a UK gigafactory, and they have form here”, he told Coventry Live.
He continued: “However, the risk is a real threat as the Jaguar Land Rover Slovakia plant currently only assembles the Land Rover Defender and slow selling Discovery 5 model and has surplus capacity of around 250,000 vehicles per annum to produce both Jaguar and Land Rover electric cars from 2025 onwards.
“And let us not forget that last year total Jaguar Land Rover production in the UK was only 220,000 cars, so a complete lift and shift away from the UK cannot be ruled out.”
“Future electric vehicle production in the UK desperately needs so called battery gigafactories nearby as the battery packs are enormous and expensive to ship from overseas but it’s a case of who’s going to blink first.
“Auto makers may be reluctant to build or retool factories in the UK unless the gigafactories are here whilst the battery manufacturers are clearly unwilling to invest the billions of pounds needed to set up UK production without solid demand from vehicle manufacturers.
“The UK has invested £130million in battery research and development – the Battery Industrialisation Centre was set up in Coventry to much fanfare – but this is small beer compared to the billions needed to achieve production at the scale needed to protect UK electric car production.”
He continued: “Other headwinds are hampering vehicle manufacturer investment enthusiasm in the UK, which has a scarce supply of raw materials and expensive energy costs along with minimal government incentives and the spectre of Brexit-related tariffs remain unclear to this day.
“Industry analysts are clearly very worried about the impact of all this and are now saying that unless the Government significantly incentivises battery production here in the UK we run the serious risk of becoming just a niche industry with high end brands such as Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin, and Lotus.
“And this downsizing is already happening where the UK, which was once the world’s second biggest car manufacturing country (but) is now outside the top 15.
“Honda have already left the UK, Toyota is producing at its lowest level for years, Stellantis (which owns Vauxhall) are potentially downsizing, and Nissan could up sticks in a heartbeat if it made economic sense to build elsewhere.
“So, an existential shift is already occurring as this huge downturn cannot be simply explained away as a consequence of either Covid or the microprocessor chip shortage and other supply chain problems.”
A spokesman for JLR said: “With our strategy for every single Jaguar Land Rover model available as a full [battery electric vehicle] by the end of the decade, we continue to explore all options around the supply of batteries.
“No decisions have been made yet.”
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