Success of the Merseyside-assembled Evoque and Discovery Sport have driven Jaguar Land Rover’s recovery and the plummeting Chinese sales will be a major blow. Tony McDonough reports
Sales of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) cars in China have hit “zero’ due to the coronavirus, chief executive Ralf Speth has admitted.
He also said that the company’s three UK factories – in Halewood in Merseyside and the West Midlands – were running out of Chinese-made parts essential for vehicle assembly, adding “we have flown parts in suitcases from China to the UK”.
China has severely restricted movement of millions of its citizen as it looks to contain the spread of the deadly virus. It has already killed more than 1,800 people in the country the authorities have ordered the closure of many factories and workplaces.
Speaking at an event in Coventry, Mr Speth said sales in China had “completely stopped”. He added: “It’s zero. You don’t know whether the economy will catch up or whether this kind of loss is just a loss.”
Plummeting Chinese sales will be particularly worrying for JLR as auto sales in the country had been key to its recovery. Sales in China have risen 24% over the past year, in contrast to sales falls in other global markets.
Biggest sellers in China have been the Evoque and the Discovery Sport models, both made at Halewood in Merseyside. The plant currently employs around 4,500 people at the plant, around 4,000 permanent and 500 agency workers. JLR is planning to cut production at the site from three shifts to two, leading to 500 job losses.
At its three UK plants JLR assembles around 400,000 vehicles a year and it is feared the lack of supplies from China could hit production in the next few weeks. Mr Speth said: “We are safe for this week and we are safe for next week and in the third week we have … parts missing.”
In a statement, JLR said its direct supply chain is “primarily European and in the UK, with a small percentage in China,” and added: “The coronavirus may impact us in the medium term. We are working with our suppliers to minimise any potential impact.”