Tata Motors-owned Jaguar Land Rover announced the opening of its new state-of-the-art USD 1.6 billion manufacturing facility in Slovakia, a first for a British automotive brand setting up in the central European country. JLR said its investment is expected to lead to an annual production of 100,000 cars at the new Slovak plant by 2020.
"Global businesses require global operational footprints. While Jaguar Land Rover's heart and soul remain firmly anchored in the UK, expanding internationally only enriches and strengthens our UK business," Ralf Speth, JLR CEO, said at the opening ceremony. He hailed the move as the start of a new era in manufacturing for the luxury car brands and the culmination of four years of planning.
"As with our existing manufacturing facilities located in the UK, China, Brazil, India and Austria, this high-tech plant in Slovakia will complement and support our corporate, R&D and engineering functions headquartered in the UK," Speth said.
The UK-based company, which was acquired by the Tata Group a decade ago, said the creation of new international factories allows JLR to "offer customers even more exciting new models, protect against currency fluctuations and support a globally competitive business".
The company described the setting up of the new Slovak plant in Nitara as the latest step in its global expansion strategy, which follows the opening of JLR's Chinese joint venture in 2014 and Brazilian plant in 2016, supported by contract manufacturing in India from 2011 and Austria from 2017.
JLR currently employs around 1,500 people in Nitra, with 98 per cent Slovak nationals and 30 per cent women. It will launch its second phase of local recruitment in November, looking for an additional 850 people to join the team in Nitra.
All manufacturing employees have taken part in a bespoke 12-week training programme in the company's first overseas Training Academy, representing an investment of Euro 7.5 million.
"Our diverse workforce brings a wealth of experience from both automotive and broader industries," Speth noted.
The new 300,000m facility has been billed as being at the forefront of aluminium manufacturing and engineering expertise in Slovakia, with an annual capacity of 150,000 vehicles a year. Supporting the company's ongoing commitment to deliver high technology lightweight vehicles to its customers, the first Land Rover Discovery rolled off the production line in September.
"The plant incorporates cutting-edge technologies and is the first in Europe to use Kuka's Pulse carrier system which is 30 per cent faster transfer times than conventional conveyance systems. It will also feature a highly automated paint shop process to ensure the highest quality and minimise the environment impact," JLR said.
The factory has been designed with the flexibility to enable smart, connected manufacturing technologies, such as shop floor visualisation by using real-time data to solve issues which will support improved process efficiency, delivery and quality.
Slovakia has an established premium automotive sector, which represents 44 per cent of the country's overall industry.
JLR, which is the UK's largest automotive manufacturer, has the largest number of retailers for its cars in Europe, with around 800 outlets across 42 countries. Since the beginning of 2018, Jaguar Land Rover has sold more than 94,000 vehicles in Europe.