Jaguar Land Rover is launching a huge recruitment drive to find up to 600 new employees, less than a month after a £1.15 billion takeover by Tata Motors of India was completed.
The luxury carmaker last night said the bulk of the recruits would be engineers needed to develop a new generation of cleaner, more eco-friendly vehicles.
But the company, which is based at Gaydon inWarwickshire, also said it had "a significant number" of key vacancies in its purchasing, finance and human resources departments.
These vacancies are believed to have been created by the departure of JLR’s previous owner, Ford.
The key focus, however, is on its need to recruit engineers to work on new technology and product development programmes.
JLR said it was investing £700 million in sustainable technologies to improve the environmental performance of its vehicles and was looking for experienced, degree-educated engineers to work on a variety of "ground-breaking" projects.
In addition, it is launching a programme aimed at recruiting more than 80 graduate trainees as well as 60 apprentices under an Advanced Modern Apprenticeship scheme announced in March.
The Birmingham Post understands that decision to sign up a further 600 employees was taken by JLR executives and did not hinge on approval from Tata Motors.
"JLR now has a lot more autonomy under Tata to take decisions such as this than it did under Ford’s ownership," an industry insider said last night.
"There is a feeling that Tata seems to be happy to take a back seat and let local management get on with running the business on a day to day business."
The latest JLR recruitment drive, which comes as Jaguar’s Castle Bromwich factory in Birmingham is working flat out to meet strong global demand for its succesful new XF saloon, was welcomed by local business leaders last night.
Kiran Virk, policy adviser at Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the annoucement was "a welcome boost to the manufacturing sector which is battling hard to fight off increasing raw material costs, a downturn in the economy and global competition."
Ms Virk went on to say: "This is further proof that the West Midlands can lead the field of research and development."
Newly-appointed JLR chief executive David Smith said: "This recruitment drive demonstrates Jaguar Land Rover’s confidence in our future.
"With our new owners, we have entered an exciting era with stunning new models and ambitious technologies.
" I can’t remember a better time to be part of the British car industry, and certainly it is a brilliant time for Jaguar Land Rover.
"Sustainability is a business imperative and we need both experienced and newly qualified graduate engineers to progress the technology projects of the future."
Des Thurlby, the company’s human resources director, said: "The campaign is up and running and Jaguar Land Rover will be targeting a number of different employment sectors to attract top quality candidates.
"We shall also be working through a variety of channels from press advertisements to the graduate milkround, and a new dedicated recruitment website.
"The work on offer is cutting-edge and the rewards impressive. This business has a bright future and we think it will be a very attractive place to work for the best in our industry here in the UK."
JLR also said last night it had had a "tremendous response" to an earlier scheme to recruit 25 undergraduates for vacation placements.
The company currently employs some 16,000 people at its car production plants at Castle Bromwich, Solihull and Halewood in Liverpool and its product development centres at Gaydon and Whitley in Coventry.
The drive to develop a new generation of "green" cars is a legacy of Ford’s ownership of the two iconic West Midland companies.
It was in July 2006, long before speculation that the Detroit giant was thinking of selling its flagship British possessions began to mount, that Ford announced a £1 billion, UK-based project to make cleaner and more fuel efficient cars.
The work was to be centered on Jaguar’s R&D centre at Whitley, Land Rover’s engineering facility at Gaydon and a counterpart Ford centre at Dunton in Essex.
Lewis Booth, Ford’s top-ranking European executive, said at the time: "Climate change is one of the greatest single challenges facing the auto industry and society today."
Both Jaguar and Land Rover claim to be making strides towards cutting the emissions of their vehicles as well as improving fuel efficiency.
Land Rover, especially, is working to rid its vehicles of the "gas guzzling" image that make them a favourite target of environmentalists.
And Jaguar’s credentials have been boosted by news that its flagship XJ 2.7 litre diesel car has been named Britain’s greenest luxury car in the Environmental Transport Association’s car buyers’ guide for the second year running.