Land Rover's Solihull factory is looking at producing hybrid vehicles, it was revealed today.
The company?s Lode Lane plant, which employs 8,000 people, has been under constant scrutiny by parent company Ford since last September.
But yesterday, Bill Faulk, group quality director, said things were looking up for the 4x4 manufacturer with progress being made under the so-called Road Map.
With rising fuel prices threatening the popularity of gas guzzling cars, Land Rover is looking at hybrid technology which uses a combination of electricity and petrol to power cars.
Mr Faulk said: ?Diesel is part of our short term plans at Land Rover, with the majority of the vehicles being diesel powered.
?But we are also looking at alternative fuels and hybrids.
?Most of this work will be done by Ford, but we are making our views known. There is work going on.?
Mr Faulk said Ford was now planning to build closer relationships with suppliers in order to drive up standards.
He said Ford needed to act with integrity and discipline to become the supplier of choice for companies.
He was speaking as it emerged Ford is planning to make a major change in its $90-billion-a-year global purchasing process intended to save billions of dollars.
?Ultimately, it aims to shrink from about 2,500 suppliers world-wide to less than 1,000.
Contracts with longer terms to fewer parts suppliers will help streamline a complex and costly network, according to a company spokesman.
Ford already has picked seven suppliers: Autoliv of Sweden; Delphi; Johnson Controls; Magna International of Canada; Visteon, Lear, and Yazaki of Japan.
Delphi, Lear and Johnson all have sites in the West Midlands.
The initial phase of the plan covers more than $35 billion in Ford purchasing for 20 key parts such as seats, tyres and bumpers, where Ford plans to cut the number of suppliers from 200 to fewer than 100.
Ford also will agree to pay suppliers upfront for engineering, development and testing - costs which previously the supplier had to bear.
In exchange, Ford expects suppliers to guarantee that new technology will be ?pro-vided first to Ford,? a crucial promise as Ford tries to improve its standing with consumers and compete with its Asian rivals.
Speaking at the Manufacturer Live event in Telford yesterday, Mr Faulk said: ?The heart of the UK is product, without product you are nowhere. After that it is about efficiency and quality, without which we are not going to be a
long term viable company.
?The role of the supplier base in this is crucial.
?We have a bright future ahead of us with the product range that is about to come out.
?Solihull is going to be a viable operation for some time. Land Rover has a really bright future with new products, and the supply chain can help.?
Mr Faulk said the quest to drive Land Rover to Jaguar levels of quality would be achieved by closer working with suppliers.
This could involve staff from Ford going out to work with them and explaining objectives as well as building longer term relationships.
He said: ?We cannot do it alone. It is about our relation-ship with the supplier base.
?We need to act with integrity and discipline so we are the customer of choice for suppliers.
?We expect good performance, cost and quality and delivery from them. If they are successful, we are successful.?
Ford will see a significant reduction in costs and save money on a number of levels with the shake-up, said Paul Haelterman, director of market assessment at CSM Worldwide.
Fewer numbers ?mean they have less one-on-one contact with all these suppliers?, he claimed.
?Ford is really going to be able to reduce some of its white-collar labour because it?s not going to need as many of those people.?