I recently visited Jaguar Land Rover with Lord Green and was privileged to see the new production line for the Range Rover Evoque which launches on 4 July. Its manufacture at Halewood in Merseyside has created 1500 new jobs which is a great boost to the local economy and is testament to the fantastic reputation the plant has for excellent quality and lean manufacturing.
I saw some interesting touches. Each car uses 16kg of recycled plastic and the trim fabric used in the headlining is produced from recycled polyester sourced from recycled bottles and fabrics. As the line reaches its optimum level very shortly in the summer, they will be producing a car every 70 seconds!
75% of JLR’s turnover is exported and their sales to China saw a 95% leap last year to see that country overtake the UK as their second biggest market. One statistic though, I found quite staggering. 75% of all Land Rovers ever made (and they began production in 1948) are still on the road. How incredible is that? The Land Rover is truly a British icon and it seems that almost no matter where you go to around the world you will see Land Rovers, mostly at work. It is said that it’s virtually the only vehicle that you would feel at home in whilst driving through the fields or drawing up outside the opera. Britain has so may of these iconic products with fantastic global recognition and we need to celebrate them.
You don’t achieve that iconic status, however, without real long term sustained investment in technology and Research & Development. We all know that internationally trading companies are significantly more innovative and spend much more on R&D than companies operating only in the domestic market but JLR take their commitment so seriously in this respect that they have invested over £1.5bn in R&D this year. This allows them to stay ahead of the competition and to launch such innovative new models as the Evoque.
I would love to drive one but my own personal quest is to find one of the original 1948 Land Rovers. 63 years later, the vehicles are as popular as ever and have stood the test of time because they have never stood still. They say innovate or die. Well if companies took a leaf out of the Land Rover book and invested in their R&D to keep ahead of the competition we may even see more of those great British icons of today gracing our streets in another 60 years’ time. I wish I could be around to see them but knowing that they will be around will be reward enough, knowing that the UK has maintained its world leading manufacturing capability and its entrepreneurial spirit in world markets.