August 11, 2015 / 8:02 AM / 4 years ago

Jaguar Land Rover plans new plant in Slovakia

LONDON, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Luxury carmaker Jaguar Land Rover has signed a letter of intent to build a new car plant in Slovakia, a further expansion away from its British manufacturing base.

The brand, owned by India’s Tata Group since 2008, said it was carrying out a feasibility study for a factory in the western Slovak town of Nitra with the aim of reaching an annual output of up to 300,000 cars over the decade from 2018 when the plant would be due to start production.

A final decision will be made later this year.

The carmaker said the facility would play a major role in increasing the number of lightweight aluminium models produced and that it had turned down locations in Europe, the United States and Mexico in favour of Nitra because of a strong supply chain and good infrastructure.

“With its established premium automotive industry, Slovakia is an attractive potential development opportunity for us,” Chief Executive Ralf Speth said.

Slovakia has already attracted other carmakers. Volkswagen builds a range of models there including its Touareg and Audi Q7 cars at its Bratislava plant, South Korea’s Kia produced more than 300,000 vehicles in the country last year while PSA Peugeot Citroen’s Slovak unit made more than 255,000 vehicles last year.

Prime Minister Robert Fico said he was committed to boosting the country’s premium car sector and would work closely with Jaguar Land Rover to ensure the plant is built in Slovakia.

“It would provide a boost to our country’s wider industrial strategy,” he said.

Jaguar Land Rover has steadily increased the number of models it builds outside of Britain, opening its first overseas manufacturing plant in China in October.

As part of plans to bring production closer to major markets, the firm will open a plant in Brazil in 2016 and signed a manufacturing partnership in July with Magna Steyr, a part of Magna International, to build models in the Austrian city of Graz.

Jaguar Land Rover has benefited from significant investment since it was bought by Tata. Its 2014/15 pre-tax profits rose to 2.61 billion pounds, double the amount four years ago.

Like other automakers, the company is facing a slowdown in China, where economic growth has dropped to a 25-year low. On Friday, Tata Motors said it had cut prices, sales and production targets for Jaguar Land Rover in China.

Reporting By Costas Pitas. Editing by Jane Merriman

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