Washington— The British government is touting auto production as a way to diversify its economy and reliance on some sectors, including financial services.
This week, the British ambassador to the United States, Peter Westmacott, hosted an event to tout new product launches of Jaguar-Land Rover at his residence in Washington. “We’re delighted that Tata Industries took it over,” Westmacott said, noting that Ford Motor Co sold the luxury brand to Indian-based Tata in 2008. “Land-Rover is one of those very special iconic British brands.”
The embassy has been touting British car production, holding a similar event for Aston Martin in September 2012.
The auto industry “is part of the British government’s very careful strategy about rebalancing our economy, so that we are a little bit less dependent on financial services than we were in 2008 when a number of things came crashing down around our heads,” Westmacott said. “We’re working very closely with industry.”
The UK auto industry — which includes General Motors Co.’s Vauxhall brand and Ford Motor Co. — exports $40 billion in vehicles annually and there are 150,000 jobs directly involved in making cars, Westmacott said.
Jaguar Land Rover group sales operations director Andy Goss said at the event that Jaguar is the fastest growing U.S brand. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed for continued success,” Goss said. “We have very ambitious plans.”
Jaguar Land Rover is the third largest R&D investor overall in the UK and will spend $4.4 billion on product development. It is building a new engine plant in the UK and announced plans to add 1,700 jobs at another UK plant. It is focusing on all-aluminum vehicles to improve fuel economy.
GM has UK factories in Ellesmere Port and Luton, while Ford has two engine plants and a joint venture transmission plant in the UK. In July, Ford closed an assembly plant in Southampton that built the Transit van in July and a stamping plant.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said this week that UK car production is up 10 percent over the past year.
“The fact is that this country is now a net exporter of cars again and we should be congratulating the work force at Toyota. We should be congratulating the work force at Jaguar Land Rover. We should be praising what they are doing at Nissan. These companies are leading a re-industrialization of our country,” Cameron said.