Jaguar Land Rover is set to open a new European factory after outlining plans to expand in Slovakia.
The automotive giant has signed a letter of intent with the government of the Slovak Republic over a new plant in the city of Nitra to be fully operational by 2018.
JLR said the UK remained “the cornerstone” of its business and this was part of plans to become more globally competitive.
The move, which follows a period of intense speculation, is part of a strategy to expand its manufacturing operations into new international locations in the future and comes after similar agreements in China and Brazil.
Dr Ralf Speth, chief executive at Jaguar Land Rover, said with its established premium automotive industry, Slovakia is an attractive possible development opportunity.
He said: “The expansion of our business globally is essential to support its long-term, resilient growth. As well as creating additional capacity, it allows us to invest in the development of more new vehicles and technologies, which supports jobs in the UK.
“With its established premium automotive industry, Slovakia is an attractive potential development opportunity for us. The new factory will complement our existing facilities in the UK, China, India and the one under construction in Brazil.”
A feasibility study is underway with the Slovakian government to explore plans for a factory with an installed capacity of up to 300,000 vehicles over the next decade.
As part of Jaguar Land Rover’s commitment to deliver more lightweight vehicles, the plant would manufacture a range of aluminium Jaguar Land Rover vehicles. It is anticipated that the first cars will come off the production line in 2018.
The move follows analysis of a number of locations in Europe, the US and Mexico.
Robert Fico, prime minister of Slovakia, said: “We are committed to developing Slovakia’s premium automotive industry and, should we be successful, this investment would represent a significant step forward in achieving this. It would provide a boost to our country’s wider industrial strategy as well as benefitting the European Union as a whole.
“We look forward to working closely with Jaguar Land Rover over the coming months to progress the negotiations.”
JLR opened a new joint venture in China and started construction of its local manufacturing plant in Brazil at the end of 2014.
The locations have largely been picked for the growth potential of the nearby car markets.
JLR was keen to point out its home was still in the UK, saying it remains “at the centre of Jaguar Land Rover’s design, engineering and manufacturing capabilities”.
Over the past five years, Jaguar Land Rover has employed more than 20,000 people taking its workforce to more than 36,000 and invested more than £11 billion in new product creation and capital expenditure.
That includes investing more than £500 million in a new Engine Manufacturing Centre in the UK, creating 1,400 new jobs in the Midlands.