Land Rover’s 8,000-strong workforce at Solihull, England, has until December to embrace the major changes in culture and working practices owner Ford Motor Co. wants.
That’s when Premier Automotive Group chairman Mark Fields and Jaguar-Land Rover chairman and CEO Joe Greenwell will return to the sprawling factory complex in the English Midlands to review progress on a ‘roadmap’ for Solihull’s future, Automotive News Europe reported.
“We’ve taken a very positive set of first steps but there’s a lot of pavement in front of us,” said Fields, who is under pressure to reduce losses at Ford’s two British luxury brands, Jaguar and Land Rover.
The roadmap requires Solihull to achieve Jaguar quality levels in three years and world-class levels in five.
The workers at Solihull can look 100 miles up the road to Jaguar’s Halewood plant to see how far they need to travel. Until 2001, Halewood was a Ford plant, building Escorts. The factory outside Liverpool was notorious for militancy, work stoppages, absenteeism, and quality problems. By September 2003, Halewood had become the top Ford factory in the world, according to an internal Ford audit.
Solihull remains at the other end of the scale. Ford senior management decided a change was needed after Land Rover finished near the bottom of the prestigious JD Power Initial Quality Study, 36th of 37 brands in 2003.
After tough, lengthy negotiations in November 2003, Land Rover management got Solihull workers to give up practices their counterparts at Halewood gave up a long time ago, such as smoking in the factory and wearing pens in their shirt pockets.
Land Rover has already shown its willingness to move production out of Solihull. Halewood will begin making the next-generation Freelander in 2006.
If Solihull’s work force doesn’t follow the roadmap, other products may leave as well. Ford has no shortage of assembly plants around the world.