Prescott, known for his use of ministerial Jaguars and ownership of at least one, met employees and union representatives from the Browns Lane factory during the Labour party conference. He told them he was “damn proud” of the brand.
“These are quality cars built, produced and designed here in Britain. We want to make sure they continue to be built, produced and designed here,” he said. A few days earlier, factory workers were joined by union reps and Coventry MPs in staging a peaceful protest at Ford’s press unveiling of its new Focus at the Paris Motor Show.
Derek Simpson, general secretary of Amicus, says Browns Lane is among Ford’s highest quality car plants and workers do not deserve to lose their jobs. “We will take our fight wherever and do whatever it takes to get Ford to reverse its decision,” he adds. Last month Ford announced it is due to close the Jaguar plant in Browns Lane by the end of 2005 with the loss of almost 1,200 jobs. Production of the XJ saloon and XK sports models will move to its Castle Bromwich factory, and Browns Lane will be sold.
The company maintains it cannot continue to operate three assembly plants with annual global sales of 125,000 Jaguars. A spokesman says it understands the strength of feeling against the closure, but the business situation is “unsustainable” and “no alternative” is available.
Jaguar dealers in the UK have been told it is business as usual. “We’ve sent letters from our MD to all the dealer network explaining what has happened and that the future is positive for Jaguar and we needed to take these measures to get our cost structure under control. In fact, from the UK sales perspective we’re doing really well, around 22% up on year-to-date,” says the spokesman.