Land Rover on Friday said it would cut night shift Range Rover production from the beginning of October and operate some lines at its Solihull, Birmingham assembly plant on a four-day week from the start of next month but, as at Toyota's UK plant in Derbyshire, no workers are being laid off at present. Minor cuts may also be made at the separate Freelander plant near Liverpool.

"We won't be turning anybody [workers] away," a spokeswoman insisted today.

She said there would be some "non-production days on Fridays" on the Discovery and Range Rover Sport trim and final lines at Solihull because the company wanted to avoid "stockpiling". Workers would still come in and perform other non-production tasks instead.

Fridays already were a traditional half day on the Range Rover Sport and Discovery 3 line.

Corporate affairs manager Mark Foster said that, from the beginning of September, workers would be required to attend on Fridays though "there won't be any production".

He said Defender production was increasing and some of the workers transferring to that model "was a possibility if deemed necessary".

He said the company was moving from a paper-based work process monitoring system to a computerised one for greater efficiency. "Obvously that will entail some training," he said. There would also be health and safety and WIP (Work in Progress) training plus maintenance. "They won't be idle."

As part of a wage settlement deal agreed last year, Land Rover has already transferred about 300 workers to sister firm Jaguar's plant across the city at Castle Bromwich, where demand for the new XF sedan exceeds supply. Foster said it was possible a few more - probably no more than 100 - would go.

Foster said Land Rover "would take a little bit of volume out of" Freelander production, built with the Jaguar X-type at the former Ford Escort plant in Halewood on Merseyside.

He noted as an aside, that the X-type [though now withdrawn from the US], had seen a boost this side of the Atlantic since a diesel automatic option had been added.

The company would "slow the Freelander line a little bit and, next month, "there could be some non-production days" but only two or three and "only in September".

"Freelander has not been affected to the same extent," he added.

He said the premium sector had been hit harder than most in the recent downturn and was more labour-intensive.

"We're fortunate, we sell into over 160 countries and, although some of our key markets are definitely being affected, we are seeing growth in Russia of 100% year to date, China 150% up, Brazil and Middle East, North Africa, Australia, they're all making very significant progress.

"To put it into context, Russia will be our third biggest market this year." 

Local newspaper the Birmingham Mail reported earlier this month that Land Rover workers were told to work shortened weeks after returning from their summer break - but the company insisted then it was for two weeks only.

Land Rover has insisted that its total sales for 2008 will still be the second highest in the company's 60-year history after a strong first half.

But its UK sales were off a massive 38.39% to 1,764 units last month and down 14.08% to 23,629 year to date, according to SMMT data.

Reports today suggested that the share price of new Jaguar Land Rover owner Tata not doing too well, either, as clouds gathering over its US$2.4bn acquisitions of Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford last June.

Rising fuel prices have reduced the attraction of fuel-hogging Land Rover/Range Rover SUVs and global economic woes are also eroding the prospects for upmarket vehicles.

Tata investors are said to be voting with their feet, driving the Tata Motors share price down by more than 37% this year, compared with a 31% drop in the benchmark BSE Sensex 30 index.