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Editor/Photographer : Mark Charles

 

Aug 22 2004

Jaguar fears on factory closure

The future of Jaguar's Midland plants was thrown into doubt last night after US bosses refused to rule out factory closure.
The luxury carbuilder, which has factories in Coventry and Birmingham, is already reeling from tough trading conditions which have resulted in production cuts.

Last week the company's UK-based press office said it was 'likely' there would be a reduction in working time but NO job losses. But across the Atlantic, the chief financial officer at parent company Ford was offering no such assurances. Don Leclair said there would be "fundamental, but not extensive, changes" at Jaguar. Yet when asked whether this could include closure of any UK plants, he warned: "Everything's on the table. We are looking at the whole business and we'll get it right."

Jaguar employs 10,000 people at three plants in the UK - Browns Lane, Coventry, Castle Bromwich, Birmingham, and Halewood, Merseyside.

One union insider last night expressed concern for the future of Jaguar. The T&GWU source said: "There is concern among union reps about the noises coming out of Ford with regards to threats to different plants. "It would be better if they stated clearly and once and for all what they are looking at doing."

Ex-Jaguar worker and Coventry North-east MP Bob Ainsworth said he had received no assurances from Jaguar chairman Joe Greenwell, who told told him there was going to be a huge review.

The future of Browns Lane in particular has been the subject of intense speculation over the last year. It is believed that some in Ford have wanted to axe the ageing Coventry plant for some time. Last year it was even claimed Ford had told the Government it was to shut the plant, but it was later announced Jaguar's new X150 sports car was to be assembled there.

Ford blamed production cuts at Jaguar, announced last week, on a weak US dollar and increased competition among luxury car makers in the United States - the luxury marque's biggest market. It also comes after Ford's Premier Automotive Group (PAG), of which Jaguar is part, suffered a £200 million loss for the second quarter. Ford has not given any details of the numbers of cars involved in the cutback.

But it is understood the figures are 6,000 X-Type built at Halewood, 2,000 XJ built at Browns Lane and a similar number of S-Type from Castle Bromwich.

Jaguar is not the only Midland car-builder currently feeling the heat from Ford. Land Rover, also part of PAG, was issued with an ultimatum from US bosses earlier this year telling it to regain world class status within five years.

For more see http://iccoventry.icnetwork.co.uk/

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