Jaguar Land Rover likely to build US plant... in three years

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Jaguar Land Rover may very well open a plant in the United States, but the latest word has it that it'll be another three years or so before the company even makes a decision on the matter.

The prospect first came up on our radar back in October when we reported that JLR was considering building a plant in the South. Georgia governor Nathan Deal even flew to the UK to solicit JLR's business. Former parent-company chairman Ratan Tata subsequently confirmed the idea was under consideration last month. And now the British automaker's CEO has told Automotive News that JLR will need a US assembly plant to fuel its growth in the vital North American market, but that'll it'll take a while to get going.

The reasons for the delay, according to chief executive Ralf Speth, are threefold. For one thing, the automaker has its hands full at the moment opening plants in other locations: last year it opened one in China and this year it opened one in Brazil. It also recently opened a new SVO facility, an electric-propulsion R&D center and a new engine plant all in the UK, and can only handle building so many new facilities at a time.

JLR will also need US suppliers of aluminum components to step up their game, as the company relies heavily on aluminum construction for their vehicles. US automakers shifting to aluminum for models like the new Ford F-150 will encourage American suppliers to get into the game, but it may be a while before they're up to Jaguar Land Rover standards.

Finally, JLR will need to increase its sales potential in the US in order to justify local production. Speth says the company would need one model of which it could sell 30,000 to 40,000 units in the US alone, and it sold less than 18,000 units of its best-selling the Range Rover Sport here last year. In fact the entire Jaguar brand sold less than 16,000 units throughout all of last year in America, with Land Rover selling far more at over 50,000 units to contribute to total sales of over 67,000 units.

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