If memory serves, about two days ago, our ‘slide show’ at the top of the home page had four bad-news, job-loss-related stories out of the seven we rotate. Grim.
It started on Monday when GM Europe, having talked it through with unions, government and workers, finally bowed to the inevitable and announced the end of car assembly in Bochum, Germany, in 2016 though some component production and warehousing (there are two separate facilities in the Ruhr city) ‘may’ remain.
The axe has been hanging over the plant for a long time and we have grouped our coverage back to early 2011 here.
Could there be more bad news to come for The General in Europe? One analyst, as recently as last month, thinks so.
Even good news rattled some cages. Tata Motors’ Jaguar Land Rover announced it was exploring options in Saudi Arabia, a prime luxury car and 4WD market, that might involve both building vehicles and sourcing their aluminium parts from a planned local smelter.
That, understandably, set off JLR‘s main UK union which wants a word with Tata over the future of the five British plants – JLR is already assembling Freelanders in an expanded Tata plant in India and working on a full manufacturing joint venture in China with local partner Chery. And that includes making engines from scratch.
Opinion over JLR strategy seems divided. I’ve seen comment suggesting that, long-term, the big spends will only be made overseas and that UK manufacturing could end, or be scaled down, when major plant investments are required here. Yet JLR is right now spending a few mill on a new English engine plant to end dependence on former owner Ford while Halewood is on three shifts for the first time ever to churn out enough Evoques and Freelanders to meet demand.
A different view published after the Saudi announcement suggested JLR expansion abroad can only be good for the home team – one new HQ job for every three abroad. After all, how many new people will be needed to train the Saudi factory workforce to make cars and maintain the machinery? And if expansion overseas (and planned new models like a rival for the BMW 3 series) grow sales overall, the policy of building where the cars are sold is a proven winner for the likes of BMW, Mercedes and Audi.
We also learned that the assets of bust A123 Systems have been snatched by the American unit of a Chinese company (from the jaws of Johnson Controls) and, back to Jpr for a moment, a planned supercar has been given the chop.
There was, though, some good news. Tesla is setting up a distribution and ‘final assembly’ centre in the Netherlands though it’s only 50 jobs, Lear’s setting up a seat plant near JLR in England, and BMW, VW and GM/SAIC each published sales reports for November and/or 2012 to date that’ll make execs at some rival automakers weep.
Have a nice weekend.
Graeme Roberts, Deputy Editor, just-auto.com