Tata's Jaguar Land Rover rolled out on Tuesday its premium Range Rover Evoque at colourful ceremony in Changshu (China), formally inaugurating its over $1.7 billion factory where it is set to manufacture new Jaguar models in a joint venture with China's Chery Automobile Company by 2016.
Tata Group's chairman Emeritus Ratan Tata, group chairman Cyrus Mistry along with top British and Chinese officials took part in the inauguration of the new plant which has begun production of the cars, which has been one of fast selling luxury brand vehicles in China, the world's largest automobile market.
The automation rate of body shop at the newly inaugurated Jaguar Land Rover plant in China's Changshu town on Tuesday. (PTI Photo)
The state-of-the-art plant which is set to manufacture about 1.30 lakh vehicles per annum formally rolled out its first batch of vehicles at the ceremony.
The new plant-opening forms part of RMB 10.9 billion (Over $1.7 billion) joint venture investment demonstrating Jaguar Land Rover's commitment to the Chinese market, JLR officials said.
Land Rover, which has become niche vehicle among the Chinese wealthy, is already selling about lakh of imported vehicles, making China its largest market.
The new factory is expected to cater for about 30% rise in JLR sales in Chinese market.
With 27 million car sales per annum China currently has the biggest automobile market in the world constituting one fourth of the global market.
The 400,000 square-metres plant was launched within two years of foundation laying ceremony.
Located in the Changshu Economic Development Zone north of Shanghai, the factory is part of a RMB 10.9 billion joint venture investment plan.
The final shop quality check at the newly inaugurated Jaguar Land Rover plant in China's Changshu town on Tuesday. (PTI Photo)
Besides Tatas, Ralf Speth, chief executive officer of Jaguar Land Rover, and Yin Tongyao, chairman and chief executive officer of Chery Automobile Company, welcomed the formal opening of the facility that aims to be the most advanced and efficient car factory in China.
"The opening of this world-class facility is an important milestone for Jaguar Land Rover. Since its launch, one in five Range Rover Evoques have been sold in China," Speth said.
"Our decision to manufacture the Range Rover Evoque in Changshu is a result of our commitment to bringing more Chinese vehicles to Chinese customers," he said.
Speaking to the media ahead of the launch, Speth played down concerns over continued slow down of the Chinese economy which registered 7.3% quarterly growth, slowest since 2009. The Chinese GDP is expected to miss the official target of 7.5% this year.
Stating that China's growth still high, he said what matters is the growth in absolute terms and JLR is bullish about.
Speaking on the occasion, Yin said: "Chery Jaguar Land Rover remains committed to delivering excellence in its quest to lead the Chinese premium automotive industry through its historic British lineage, world-class quality and unique shared value approach."
By 2016, the facility is expected to be building three Jaguar Land Rover models with total production capacity of 130,000 units a year.
The local and international media was taken around the plant where 85% of manufacturing is automated through extensive use of robots. However, the engines for the vehicles will be continued to imported from JLR?s British plant until the new facility is created.
The vehicles will be manufactured in highly-automated press shops including cutting-edge aluminium and steel technologies ? along with a steel body shop comprising 306 robots, an energy-efficient paint shop and an ergonomically-friendly final assembly line.
A new aluminium body shop, the first in China, is already under construction, at the Changshu facility, to support the introduction of new Jaguar products.
Technicians at work at the newly inaugurated Jaguar Land Rover plant in Changshu on Tuesday. (PTI Photo)
Chris Bryant, President of Chery Jaguar Land Rover joint, said:"The plant opening marks the completion of our start-up phase of which we are incredibly proud, and now we will continue to build with the same passion and pride, to realise our goal to be the premium automotive manufacturer inspiring excellence in China?s automotive industry."
Significant investment has been committed to training over 2,000 new people in health and safety standards, process systems and problem-solving, as well as the company's quality- control processes and corporate culture, JLR officials said.
The facility in the Jiangsu region, part of the Yangtze River Delta, forms the centrepiece of a joint venture investment that will include the establishment of Greater China Research and Development Centre and engine manufacturing.
Inaugural sales of the China-made Range Rover Evoque are due to begin in early 2015. Further details will be released at the Guangzhou Motor Show later this year.
In a joint statement, Speth and Yin concluded: "We will leverage the complementary strengths of our two businesses to set new standards for manufacturing excellence, quality and sustainability in China. Together, we can look forward to expansion in China with confidence."
Jaguar Land Rover first established a presence in China just over a decade ago and has a long-term commitment to its Chinese customers. Once fully operational, output from the new state-of-the-art facility will include new derivatives and models specially designed for the Chinese market.
The company has developed a compelling CSR programme in China and, earlier this year, created the Jaguar Land Rover Children and Dream Fund, working with the Soong Ching Ling Foundation.
Jaguar Land Rover China will invest RMB 50 million (Over $8 million) over the next three years in an initiative that supports and develops underprivileged young people.
In the last four years, more than 500 apprentices have graduated from the apprentice training programme in China.
In the last fiscal year, Jaguar Land Rover sold more than 100,000 vehicles in China, making it Jaguar Land Rover?s single largest market, JLR officials said.