Picture: GETTY IMAGES/CHRISTOPHER FURLONG
Picture: GETTY IMAGES/CHRISTOPHER FURLONG

London — Brexit-facing Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) will axe around 4,500 mostly UK jobs, the Indian-owned car maker said on Thursday, after a slump in Chinese sales and as buyers dump diesel cars for electric.

“JLR is expanding a business-wide organisation review aimed at reducing the size of its global workforce by about 4,500 people,” the company said in a statement. “This is in addition to the 1,500 who left the company during 2018.”

Owned by India’s Tata Motors, JLR employs 44,000 worldwide, 42,500 of which are in Britain.

In a busy day of announcements by the car sector, US group Ford said it plans a major restructuring of its European operations, including job cuts, to boost profitability. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars,  meanwhile, said it has no intention of switching UK production abroad despite growing concerns over the possible impact of a no-deal Brexit on the economy.

German-owned Rolls-Royce also announced on Thursday that it sold a record number of luxury vehicles last year, with purchases soaring worldwide.

As for JLR, its move to shed more than 10% of its UK workforce is aimed at delivering £2.5bn of cost cuts over 18 months, as the group looks to move further into the electric-car segment amid a massive drop off in sales of diesel vehicles.

“We are taking decisive action to help deliver long-term growth, in the face of multiple geopolitical and regulatory disruptions as well as technology challenges facing the automotive industry,” said JLR CEO Ralf Speth. He added that “investing in cleaner, smarter, more desirable cars and electrifying ... facilities to manufacture a future range of British-built electric vehicles will all form part of building a globally competitive and flourishing company.”

JLR suffered a 21% drop in Chinese car sales last year, while it has sought to contain any possible Brexit fallout. The company has already moved to ensure it will still have a plant inside the EU  after Britain’s planned departure from the bloc on March 29.

In October, JLR opened a €1.4bn factory in Nitra, Slovakia, its first in continental Europe. In July it warned that a “bad” Brexit deal could jeopardise planned investment of more than $100bn, saying the future was unpredictable if free and frictionless trade with the EU and unrestricted access to its single market was not maintained.

On Thursday, Britain’s business minister Greg Clark said a no-deal Brexit would be a disaster for JLR.

“JLR is a stellar company with a first-class workforce,” he told BBC radio. “It has always been clear that its success depends on exports, including to the rest of the EU," Clark said.

“It is one of the prime examples of a brilliant, just-in-time manufacturing process ... that helps it be competitive. Given the difficulties it is going through ... to add further costs and further disruption from a no-deal Brexit, it’s clear why it has been so clear why this would be against its interests.” 

AFP