Hundreds of jobs are being shed at the Range Rover Evoque factory at Halewood on Merseyside as the recession in the British motor industry bites.
About 500 jobs are being cut at the plant, which employs 4,000 people and also makes the Land Rover Discovery Sport.
Over the past two years Jaguar Land Rover has made 6,000 people redundant, paring its workforce back to 34,000. Most of those jobs went in the West Midlands and at its headquarters in Coventry.
The company has suffered as motorists turn their backs on diesel, the fuel that not long ago drove 90 per cent of Jaguar Land Rover’s vehicles.
The company enjoyed rapid growth after it was acquired in 2008 by the interests of Sir Ratan Tata, the Indian billionaire. However, its car production slumped by 15 per cent in 2018 and its sales fell by 6 per cent to 557,000 vehicles last year.
The company, whose parent Tata Motors is listed in Bombay, said that it was cutting the third of its three daily shifts at Halewood from April.
Jaguar Land Rover is Britain’s biggest automotive employer and its factories — at Halewood, Solihull and Castle Bromwich in Birmingham and its engine plant at Wolverhampton — vie with Nissan in Sunderland for the title Britain’s largest car producer. Between the two companies, they produce more than two thirds of cars coming off UK assembly lines.
The company was created after the Land Rover and Jaguar businesses were bought by Ford, of the United States, to become part of its premier automotive group. Jaguar, which traces its history back to the pre-Second World War Swallow Sidecar company and its unfortunate SS insignia, had been taken off the London stock market in 1990, while Land Rover was acquired by Ford a decade later from BMW during the break-up of Rover Group.
Jaguar and Land Rover were taken over by Tata in 2008 for a knockdown £1.15 billion amid the dispersal of Ford’s non-homemade brands, which included the sale of other acquired companies such as Aston Martin and Volvo. After expanding rapidly under Sir Ralf Speth, its chief executive, the wheels came off. Last year Jaguar Land Rover reported record losses of £3.6 billion.
The company insisted that the Halewood lay-offs were not about cutting volumes. “This will deliver significant operating efficiencies at the plant, while enabling us to meet the growing customer demand for our new Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport,” a spokesman said.
A new version of the £31,000 Evoque, the bestseller in the Range Rover-Land Rover stable, was launched last year and the £31,000 Discovery Sport has undergone a “refresh”.
Unite, the union, contested the company’s claims, saying that the job cuts were a response to a slower rate of growth for the Evoque and the Discovery Sport than had been forecast.
The UK car industry is struggling. About 5,000 jobs will be lost with the closure of Honda’s factory in Swindon and Ford’s engine plant in south Wales.
“This is a further blow to the UK car industry in general and to our members at Halewood in particular,” Des Quinn, Unite’s national officer, said.