Jaguar to shut UK plant as Mandelson wades into Opel row

Jaguar Land Rover will close one of its UK factories by 2014, as the Government struggles to protect Vauxhall jobs.

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Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

More bad news for the beleaguered UK auto industry: Jaguar Land Rover said today that it will close one of its two West Midlands plants by 2014. The carmaker, which is owned by Indian conglomerate Tata, claims there will be no net job losses – but with 5,000 people employed at the Solihull plant (which we’re guessing is the more likely to be closed) and just 800 jobs likely to be created at its Halewood plant, we’ll believe that when we see it. JLR apparently wants to consolidate as it prepares to start producing lighter cars (like the new Range Rover, to be built at the Halewood plant) – but for Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, who’s now appealing to European regulators over Magna’s acquisition of Opel, this is another headache he really didn’t need…

Mandy is still trying to mitigate the potential job losses arising from Magna’s takeover of Vauxhall. In a letter to Europe’s competition chief Neelie Kroes, seen by the FT, he suggested Magna’s plan for Opel was not ‘commercially the most viable’ – in other words, it’s more about politics than profits. And although there’s clearly a degree of self-interest here – the last thing Mandy wants is yet more people joining the UK dole queues – he surely has a point. There’s undoubtedly a political angle to the sale, given that German chancellor Angela Merkel is stumping up a hefty loan on condition that Magna keeps all four of its German factories going. And Mandy’s not the only one crying foul: Belgium and Spain are also up in arms (we’re sure they’re just mad that Merkel beat them to the punch, but still).

And at least Mandelson’s politicking is better than his stand-up routine, if last night’s BRC event at Grosvenor House is anything to go by. ‘Given that Rory Bremner is here tonight and we’re doing a double act, I just want to reassure you that I am the real Peter Mandelson. You can tell, because I am funnier,’ he said, before disproving this entirely by continuing: ‘Rory and I have agreed a division of labour this evening. He’s going to analyse the risks of prematurely withdrawing a neo-Keynesian stimulus in a potentially deflationary macroeconomic environment, and I’m going to crack a few jokes and do some impressions. Actually, I wouldn’t wish that fate on anyone, so I’ll keep to the economics.’ Comedy genius, we’re sure you’ll agree.

Unfortunately his economics aren’t infallible either. In a statement released today, Mandelson spoke at length about Jaguar Land Rover’s focus ‘on the future of the industry’ and the commitment that Tata is showing to its ‘highly-skilled workforce’ – while entirely failing to mention the impending closure of one of its factories and the likely job losses that will ensue. A fairly major – if not entirely surprising – oversight... 


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