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July 5, 2019

JLR chief denies “crying wolf” over Brexit

Ralf Speth, CEO of Tata Motors-owned Jaguar Land Rover, has denied "crying wolf" over Brexit following today's announcement the automaker would make a range of new electrified vehicles at its plant in Castle Bromwich, England.

By Olly Wehring

Ralf Speth, the CEO of Tata Motors -owned Jaguar Land Rover, has denied "crying wolf" over Brexit following today's announcement the automaker would make a range of new electrified vehicles at its plant in Castle Bromwich, England.

The first model was confirmed as an electric version of the next generation Jaguar XJ in a move the company said would safeguard thousands of jobs in the UK.

"No, I'm not a wolf," Speth, a German national, told Sky's Ian King Live, a lunchtime satellite TV business programme, on Friday.

"But I know my facts and figures. I want to make quite clear I honour democratic processes. But I also want to go away from emotion and discuss this kind of case on facts and figures.

"Everybody can calculate these facts and figures and everybody can see the implications out of it."

Programme host King noted JLR was pressing ahead with a significant investment without knowing the outcome of Brexit and asked Speth why he had now made the announcement "given some of the previous comments you've made on Brexit".

"Statements are statements and figures are figures," retorted Speth. "We also see that [time is advancing] and being first in the market is very important."

He noted that JLR had already "delivered" the first premium all-electric SUV [the I-Pace built under contract by Magna Steyr in Austria] and the company wanted to keep new similar products coming, the XJ taking Jaguar into the premium EV sedan sector.

Asked why he had called for more EV battery production in the UK when JLR was setting up its own Hams Hall plant [near Birmingham, also home to a BMW engine factory] to build up the cell packs, Speth said there was a difference between a battery pack assembly centre and "complete production of batteries".

JLR would be importing the cells and, Speth said, "my call is specifically about the next generation, designed and specified in the UK, including the cells". 

Asked if the UK was up to that task, Speth hesitated a moment, smiled and added: "There's a nice chance to catch up."

Regardless of the politics, the Castle Bromwich investment is well worth having and the battery cell challenge has been made – who's up for it?

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