12 July 2019
What a pleasure it was to visit the Castle Bromwich plant of Jaguar Land Rover to hear some exceptionally good news, writes Paul Faulkner.
Jaguar Land Rover were revealing plans to manufacture a range of new electrified vehicles at Castle Bromwich and the announcement is the next significant step in delivering on the company’s commitment to offer customers electrified options for all new Jaguar and Land Rover models from 2020.
I was privileged to be present when the news was confirmed to workers at Castle Bromwich as production of the current XJ came to an end. And you could feel the passion and pride the workforce had for the end of the line for this mainstay of the Jaguar saloon range for over 50 years.
What struck me, as I stood on the factory floor - the huge space packed with hundreds of Jaguar employees - was the sheer scale of the impact of the investment on the people of the West Midlands. There are nearly 2,300 employees at Jaguar Castle Bromwich alone whose futures have been secured and many thousands more across the supply chain.
And that is likely to double as the full implementation of the investment comes on stream and the plant reaches capacity again.
This is not only a triumph for JLR but for the West Midlands Combined Authority for putting the region at the forefront of electric technology.
It was re-assuring to hear the words of Professor Dr Ralph Speth, chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover, when he confirmed that JLR will be investing millions in refitting the Castle Bromwich site to pave the way for production of a new range of Jaguar vehicles.
While the eyes of the world, and the national media, were on Ralph Speth there are a number of unsung local heroes who have been instrumental in securing this investment.
For months, Jaguar’s Castle Bromwich management, led by operations director Jamie Whitehead, have been working hard with employees and trade unions to revolutionise working patterns at the factory.
As highlighted by Professor David Bailey, of Aston Business School, in last week’s Birmingham Post, their hard work, determination and willingness to collaborate and compromise has transformed the business case and made this major investment possible.
At the event, Jamie paid tribute to the teams who have built the XJs over the years, thanking them for “the infectious passion they’ve got for what they do, the product they produce and the way it’s imbued across the plant”.
Much of the credit for that should go to Jamie and with the sort of passion he and his colleagues have for the product we can be sure that the new electric XJ will be built with the characteristics synonymous with its predecessors - beautiful design, intelligent performance and revered luxury.
The event also marked special recognition for Ian Callum, former design director of Jaguar who created the current XJ series. He was awarded a specially crafted model of a Jaguar XJ.
And Jamie, obviously proud of Ian’s achievements, said his “breath-taking cars both inspired and rewarded us in the true traditions of Jaguar design. It was a privilege to have built them for him and our customer”.
The electric XJ marks the next phase in development of the Castle Bromwich site, which has long been associated with icons of British engineering since its inception, manufacturing Spitfires and Lancaster Bombers during World War II.
It was a privilege to join the Jaguar Castle Bromwich team in saying farewell to the current series XJ and to welcome the news about the investment in electric and new model vehicle production.
The passion, dedication and, above all, pride that the Jaguar Castle Bromwich team have in what they do is palpable.
Jamie Whitehead has been a key figure in securing this major investment, a huge win not just for the Castle Bromwich site, but for Greater Birmingham as a whole.
Paul Faulkner if chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce.
This column was originally published in the Birmingham Post, 11 July edition.