Jaguar Land Rover’s announcement of a low-carbon future also contained significant news for its historic Castle Bromwich plant. JLR said it would end mass production of cars at the site before 2025, after decades of assembly at a facility with an illustrious past which rivals that of any UK factory.
The plant was brought to the brink of closure in 2010, before JLR staged a dramatic U-turn. A decade later, fears for its future were rising again as production fell, but once more it has been granted an unexpected reprieve.
JLR has pledged to unions that there will be no compulsory manufacturing redundancies because it will consolidate other operations at the West Midlands site.
The Castle Bromwich plant started as an airfield serving the nascent aviation industry as early as 1909. It was taken over by the Royal Flying Corps – the RAF’s predecessor – in the first world war, before it was identified as the site for an aircraft factory shortly before the second world war.
That decision put Castle Bromwich at the centre of the British war effort, churning out more than 12,000 of the Spitfire fighters that played a prominent role in the Battle of Britain, as well as Lancaster bombers. The site still has a morgue – albeit unused – that serves as a morbid reminder of its past as a bombing target for the Luftwaffe.
After the second world war the plant was taken over by a car body pressings company, Fisher & Ludlow. Through mergers it eventually became part of British Leyland. Jaguar took on the site in 1977, staying there through periods of ownership by Ford and the current owner, Tata, an Indian conglomerate.
The factory will continue to produce Jaguar’s existing lineup for a few years but it will not add new models. The models built at the site are the XE and XF saloon cars and the F-Type sports car. However, on Monday JLR reversed a decision to build an electric XJ saloon there.
Ian Henry, the owner of the AutoAnalysis consultancy, said the Castle Bromwich plant had a paint shop and metal pressings facility that could be used for Jaguar’s special vehicle operations, a lucrative sideline in limited edition, high-performance cars. But its days as one of Britain’s great mass production car plants appear to be over.