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Last Updated: Friday, 17 September, 2004, 13:09 GMT 14:09 UK
End of car production 'a tragedy'
Arnold Hudson
The first Jaguar car was bought by Arnold Hudson
The decision to stop production at Jaguar's Coventry plant represents the end of an era for the first person to buy a car from the company 70 years ago.

Arnold Hudson, 95, described the decision as a "terrible tragedy".

He spent less than 300 to secure a model before the firm began production and went on to buy 11 other Jaguars.

He met the company's founder Sir William Lyons when he delivered typewriters to its research department in Coventry in the 1930s.

Sold on a sketch

And he ended up ordering a suede green car for himself.

Mr Hudson, who lives near Stone, Staffordshire, said: "On the wall facing me was a sketch of a Jaguar. Well, I was sold straight away.

"I wrote him (William Lyons) a cheque and he couldn't believe it. He said 'I can't believe I've sold one before I've produced one!'

"I want someone to know what the Jaguar owner (would) feel like to think it was to be closed down, the birthplace of my favourite car."

The devil is in the detail and there are still many unanswered questions
Louise Beard, Chamber of Commerce
Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce said Jaguar's parent company Ford has put together a "fair package".

There will be 400 voluntary redundancies at Browns Lane as production moves to the firm's plant in Castle Bromwich, Birmingham.

But many of the factory's 2,500 workers will transfer to Birmingham, while 310 will remain in Coventry to make wood finishes for Jaguar models.

Chamber of Commerce chief executive, Louise Beard, said: "We are obviously pleased that Browns Lane is not closing and that many of the skilled manufacturing workers will keep their jobs.

"However, the devil is in the detail and there are still many unanswered questions."

Charlie West-Williams
Shop worker Charlie West-Williams' parents work at Browns Lane
Jaguar's headquarters and the wood veneer manufacturing centre will remain at Browns Lane and the firm's product development centre for designing cars will stay at Whitley, also in Coventry.

Ms Beard added: "I would urge Ford to ensure that land sold off at Browns Lane is redeveloped as employment land.

"As a result of this plan Coventry will very much still remain the home of Jaguar and I hope we will see sufficient future investment in upskilling the current workforce.

"Our thoughts are with those who will lose their jobs, but can see that Ford has worked hard to radically minimise the number of losses."

However the mood in Allesley village, where the majority of residents work at Browns Lane, was sombre this week.

Shop supervisor Charlie West-Williams, whose parents work at the factory, admits staff face an uncertain future.

She said: "It's going to affect a lot of people.

"Not only that - it's going to be incredibly sad as well because it's part of Coventry's history."

The firm says a science and business park, which already has planning permission, will be developed at Whitley in association with Coventry City Council and local enterprise agencies.

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