Ford Premier Automotive Group (PAG) unit Jaguar Cars reportedly is cutting production at its three British plants because of poor sales of its luxury cars in the United States, the company’s biggest market accounting for about half its sales.

Jaguar will drop 15,000 cars – a cutback of 11% – from the production line from now until the end of the year, the Associated Press (AP) said.

The company assembles the XJ and XK models in Coventry, the X-Type at a former Ford Escort plant in Halewood on Merseyside, and the S-Type at Castle Bromwich in Birmingham. Their engines come from Ford plants in Wales, Dagenham near London, and Europe.

Jaguar reportedly said there would be no job losses among its 8,000 staff, but production will be scrapped on Fridays. It added that the weakness of the US dollar and intense competition had hurt sales in the United States.

According to the Associated Press, Jaguar’s US sales were down 3% in the first six months of the year compared to the first half of 2003. The company sold 57,000 cars in the United States last year.

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AP noted that, in July, Ford reported that PAG, which includes Jaguar, Aston Martin, Volvo and Land Rover, had a pre-tax loss of $US362 million for the second quarter on sales of $6.9 billion, compared with a pre-tax profit of $166 million on sales of $6.4 billion in the second quarter of 2003.

Separately, the BBC reported that Jaguar’s British style has long been popular in the US. However, it has recently been hit by strong competition from other luxury car brands, so much so that sales were 24% lower in July 2004 than July 2003.

“This is a prudent move that will enable us to bounce out our stocks, particularly in the US market, where our performance has been adversely impacted by exchange rates and the increasingly competitive environment among luxury brands,” a Ford spokesman told the BBC.

David Osborne, T&G National Secretary for the car industry, reportedly said the position at Jaguar was clearly cause for concern.

“It is a tragedy that Jaguar are having to cut production at their most efficient plants in the Ford group,” he told the BBC. “The exchange rate is having a big impact on the Jaguar business.

“The company have said there will be no job losses as a result and will move to a four-day week to facilitate the cuts they need to make.”