Merseyside-produced Ranger Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport models are key to the recovery of Jaguar Land Rover which has just resumed production following lockdown. Tony McDonough reports
Carmaker Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has offered a fuller picture of the huge impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on its global businesses.
JLR, which employs around 4,000 people at its factory at Halewood in Merseyside, said its promising turnaround strategy came to a juddering halt in the final quarter of its financial year with pre-tax losses during that period, alone, hitting £501m.
However, the company is striking an upbeat note now that production has resumed at its factories and sales are rising again in China. It has identified its Merseyside-produced Ranger Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport as key to its recovery.
For the full year to March 31, 2020, the company, owned by India-based Tata Motors, is reporting a pre-tax loss of £422m from revenues of £23bn. Revenues for the final quarter were £5.4bn. The company also said it would cut 1,100 agency staff from its UK car plants.
The COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent shutdowns in many countries, couldn’t have come at a worse time for JLR which, after a turbulent couple of years, had seen a return to profits its second and third quarters, with double-digit sales growth in China.
One of the few bright spots came from the popularity of its Evoque and Discovery Sport models. Evoque sales alone soared 24.7% year-on-year and the company has high hopes now for the “refreshed” Discovery Sport following its March launch in China.
Around 1,000 workers returned to the Halewood plant last week to resume production following the lockdown in March and the first vehicles have already been rolling off the production line.
JLR has implemented strict social distancing measures for all of its staff. For those workers involved in processes that requires them to be less than 2m away from their colleagues, visors are being worn. The company has made its own visors and everyone has been given one.
The company says it is now seeing an “encouraging recovery” in China and is gradually resuming production at the Solihull, Halewood and engine plants in the UK, as well as its Slovakia plant and the contract assembly line in Austria.
New products will support the recovery of the business, including the ramp-up of the new-generation Land Rover Defender; plug-in hybrid versions of the Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport with new 1.5-litre 3-cylinder Ingenium petrol engine; and the newly-refreshed Jaguar F-TYPE.
The company is planning for a gradual recovery as lockdowns are relaxed and economies respond. All retailers are now open in China, contributing to unit sales of 6,828 vehicles in April (down only 3.1% year-on-year) and 8,068 in May (up 4.2%). Sales of Range Rover and Range Rover Sport have been “particularly encouraging”
JLR has embarked on its ‘Destination Zero’ transformation programme with an increasing emphasis on producing electric and hybrid vehicles and developing technology to reduce accidents and cut congestion.
Chief executive, Prof Sir Ralf Speth, said: “In such uncertain times, I remain convinced that Jaguar Land Rover’s focus on its people, its innovative products and its Destination Zero mission will remain the key to navigating out of this global crisis effectively.
“In China, we are beginning to see recovery in vehicle sales and customers are returning to our showrooms. Our operational fitness gives me confidence that we can weather this storm.”