It’s a big move, and not just for people struggling trying to cram their Bugaboo into a Nissan Micra. The Evoque is being touted as JLR’s most important new vehicle since Tata bought the loss-making group from Ford for $2.3bn three years ago. And it’s been a rare piece of ‘evoquative’ news for UK car manufacture: the car has already attracted more than 200,000 enquiries from potential buyers, and created £2bn worth of supply contracts spread across about 40 UK firms. It’s also led to 1,500 jobs at the Halewood plant (more than 14,000 people applied, 8,000 of those within a week of the job ad going out).
Early in 2009, JLR reported a £673m loss for 2008 in its core UK operation, and responded by cutting production by more than 100,000 units, slashing spending, freezing pay and cutting the payroll by 2,500. But the company has really shifted gears since. A surge in global demand helped it make profits of £1.04bn after tax last year, with a very healthy margin of 11%. That’s up there with rivals BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. JLR now plans to invest £5bn over the next five years, and boost its spending on products by 50% from about £1bn to £1.5bn. It’s even hiring 300 graduates and 1,000 engineers. Hurrah.
And this isn’t the only good investment news in the headlines today; others seem to be sharing this warm headlight glow. Travelodge has just announced 22 new hotels, including five in London, in deals worth £165m; Canadian cinema group IMAX is poised for a major expansion of its UK chain, from 14 big-screen cinemas to around 50 in the next five to seven years; and Caterpillar (which already has 13,300 staff here, including over 9,000 manufacturing jobs) has said it’s committing £90m a year to invest in Britain. A few more of these, and maybe we can get the UK economy motoring again.