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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 May, 2004, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK
8,000 Land Rover jobs threatened
By Jorn Madslien
BBC News Online business reporter at the Birmingham Motorshow

Land Rover Discovery Series 2 model
Land Rover is in danger of sinking
A senior Ford of Europe executive has told 8,000 Land Rover staff that they might lose their jobs unless they can improve productivity and efficiency.

Mark Fields, president of Premier Automotive Group (PAG), gave factory staff eight weeks to work out a plan, a spokeswoman told BBC News Online.

Investment in the Solihull factory could be cut if they fail to do so and eventually it might close, she said.

But Mr Fields would back a viable productivity plan, she stressed.

Local industry experts compared the ultimatum with BMW's warning about Rover's future six years ago, ahead of the German car maker's sale of Land Rover to Ford and of Rover to the Phoenix consortium for 10.

The motor industry has won for Britain huge amounts of inward investment with some of the world's leading manufacturers choosing to locate new plants in the UK
Gordon Brown
Chancellor of the Exchequer
The workers were told that they must "improve the quality of the vehicles and create better working practices at the plant," the spokeswoman said, insisting that the efficiency improvements called for would not lead to job cuts.

"We have had quite a lot of problems over the last couple of years with disputes at the plant," she said.

Mr Fields had told workers that they "must accept changes within the plant", she said.

Produce elsewhere

Land Rover must become as competitive as Jaguar within three years and as competitive as other car makers within five years, another spokeswoman told BBC News Online.

Land Rover Discovery 3 TDV6
Land Rover's new Discovery 3 TDV6 was launched while unions and managers talked
"[Mr Fields] gave them the collective challenge of having management and unions to draw up a plan over the next eight weeks to put together a jointly agreed roadmap," she said.

"In eight weeks time, Mr Fields will come back to see how things have developed."

If the Land Rover management and unions fail to deliver, Ford might shift the production of Land Rover's Defender, Discovery and Land Rover models elsewhere, the first spokeswoman said.

"Ford has over 140 factories worldwide," she said.

It has already been decided that the production of Land Rover's Freelander model will be moved to Ford's Jaguar factory in Halewood, Liverpool, in 2006.

Land Rover is a subsidiary of Ford and part of the US car maker's PAG, or Premier Automotive Group, which also includes Volvo, Jaguar and Aston Martin.

Job creation

Thursday's morning meeting between unions and the management in Solihull coincided with the public display of the new Discovery 3 TDV6 at the motorshow in Birmingham.

The show, which opened for the public on Thursday morning, was visited by the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown just two days earlier.

During his visit, Mr Brown praised the motor industry for its ability to create jobs in the UK and to attract investment from foreign companies.

"The motor industry has won for Britain huge amounts of inward investment with some of the world's leading manufacturers choosing to locate new plants in the UK," he said.




SEE ALSO:
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18 Mar 04  |  West Midlands


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