JLRs Halewood plant in England built its millionth Land Rover product  last year - a Range Rover Evoque

JLR's Halewood plant in England built its millionth Land Rover product last year - a Range Rover Evoque

Unofficial photos of what was described as a line-off ceremony for the first Chinese built Range Rover Evoque have appeared today (Friday 30 May) on a Chinese car enthusiasts' website. just-auto believes, however, the white vehicle pictured is more likely a trial production unit rather than production 'Job One'.

CarNewsChina.com said the 'spy shots' showing a 'first' Range Rover Evoque rolling off the line in China, celebrated by staff wearing white helmets, suggested the factory wasn’t completely ready yet.

Most of the people in the photos are men in suits wearing high-visibility jackets and white hard hats, which is not unusual issue to car factory visitors in today's 'health and safety-conscious' era, and what is visible of the factory appears to be complete, but we would expect a much larger crowd of automaker and government officials, and factory workers at an official start of production event.

CarNewsChina said JLR's Chinese joint venture was in a hurry to get the Evoque on sale because domestic automaker Landwind is working on its own interpretation [read 'copy'] of the trendy Evoque which is still selling well three years after global launch.

The Chinese Evoque is made by the Chery-Jaguar Land Rover joint venture in a new factory in the city of Changshu in Jiangsu province. Following government approval a month earlier, plant construction started in November 2012CarNewsChina said the factory would also make the Land Rover Freelander and just-auto understands a stretched variant of the Jaguar XF, developed specially for China's chauffeur-driven buyers and a rival for the locally made LWB Audi A6 and BMW 5-series, is understood to be in the works as well.

The website said the China-made Evoque would make its debut at the Chengdu motor show in September and go on sale in the fourth quarter of this year.

The Evoque is currently imported fully built from JLR's Halewood factory in England into China at prices ranging from CNY528,000 to CNY668,000 (US$85,500-$108,200. Shorn of taxes applied to fully imported luxury vehicles, the locally made version will be about 20% cheaper, starting around CNY422,000 ($68,300), CarNewsChina said.

According to just-auto's Production Life Database (PLDB), Jaguar Land Rover management said in May 2010 certain vehicles would be built in China and assembled in India in the future.

In October 2012, reports from China indicated the Freelander 2 would be the first JLR model to be made at the forthcoming Chery-JLR plant for China. The first Freelander had originally been expected to roll off the line in July 2014 with capacity of 43,000 a year said to be planned (plus 34,000 units of the Evoque, 30,000 units of a Jaguar sedan and a further 23,000 units of an unspecified Chery model).

The joint venture's longer term plan reportedly is to increase annual vehicle sales and production from the initial 130,000 to 250,000 units.

Speaking at the Delhi motor show in February 2014, JLR CEO Ralf Speth said the JV's commercialised production will now begin in 2015 rather than this year, because of delays concerning machinery and equipment.

That 'first vehicle', a white Evoque five-door, off the line at the ceremony today - is most likely to be a trial production car.

JLR assembles the Freelander - and Jaguar XF and XJ - from UK-supplied kits at parent Tata Motors' plant in India and has recently reported to be also considering assembling some Land Rover models in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, prompting concern amongst UK autoworker unions. JLR is also expected to assemble the Freelander and Evoque in its planned plant in Brazil.

A JLR spokeswoman said production at the Chinese factory was scheduled to start "at the end of the year". As already announced, the plant would ultimately produce a variety of brands for both JLR and its joint venture partner.

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