History has been made at the traditional home of Land Rover in Solihull after the first Jaguar vehicle rolled off the production line.
Jaguar’s new XE saloon is being produced in all-new production facilities at the Lode Lane plant following an investment of almost £2 billion.
The £500 million ‘factory within a factory’ consists of a new body shop and trim and final facilities and represents the largest single investment in the Solihull plant in its 70 year history.
The 165,000 sq m facilities include Europe’s largest aluminium bodyshop, which also features 630 robots, many of which apply rivets and adhesive, as well as performing welding duties.
The bodyshop produces the aluminium-intensive XE body shells while the flexible production line in a separate building is capable of building both XE and Range Rover Sport vehicles simultaneously.
Jaguar Land Rover said the latest development means the Solihull plant now represents one of the largest manufacturing growth stories in the UK for a generation – almost trebling production and doubling its workforce in five years.
The dual production line employs a total of 1,500 workers over two shifts, taking the total Solihull workforce to 9,000.
And the dividends are also being felt throughout the supply chain, with 55 UK-based suppliers having been awarded £4 billion in contracts for the XE.
The XE has been described in some quarters as the most important car Jaguar has ever produced and could see sales treble for the Midland marque.
It faces tough competition though as it takes on more established rivals such as the BMW 3 Series, the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
It is part of a determined drive by Jaguar to increase sales and will be followed by the F-Pace crossover, which is due to go into production next year and will also be built at Solihull.
The new production facilities were opened in a carnival-style celebration at Lode Lane.
British motor racing legend Sir Stirling Moss OBE and Jaguar’s famed test driver, Norman Dewis OBE, who helped develop 25 Jaguar models from the 1950s onwards, joined Solihull operations director, Alan Volkaerts and television presenter Quentin Wilson.
Sir Stirling Moss cut the ribbon to formally open the new production facilities following a parade of a fleet of Jaguar and Land Rover heritage vehicles around the road network within the Solihull plant.
Production was stopped temporarily to allow the workforce to join the celebrations as the lengthy vehicle parade wound its way around the site.
Emphasising the significance of the occasion Mr Volkaerts said: “It really brings it home to me what an enormous privilege it is to be manufacturing both our special brands - Jaguar and Land Rover - here in Solihull.
“The transformation of the plant over the last five years has been staggering.
“We have trebled production in Solihull and doubled our workforce to over 9,000 people.
“That’s 4,500 people from the local community who have all got jobs and we should be very proud.
“Less than a year ago this was a building site and we are now building the Range Rover Sport and Jaguar XE.
“It shows if you put your mind to it you can do anything.”
Mr Volkaerts said it represented “a new chapter in the history of the plant” and demonstrated Jaguar Land Rover’s flexibility in terms of its £1.5 billion investment in developing lightweight aluminium vehicle architecture.
He added: “This demonstrates our long-term growth ambitions.
“But this is a tough old business - building cars is a hard thing to do.
“Our competitors are always snapping at our ankles keeping us on our toes.”
The arrival of the XE in Solihull means it sits alongside production of the Land Rover Defender, Land Rover Discovery, Range Rover and Range Rover Sport.