The site had been under threat of closure when senior Ford chiefs demanded it address productivity and quality issues. An initial proposal presented by management earlier this month failed to impress, and Ford of Europe chief executive Mark Fields allowed seven days to refine it.
The revised plan was accepted by Fields last week, leaving the factory’s future looking more secure. It is now down to employees to vote on the proposals, with results of the ballot due today. Unions are confident they will be accepted.
Retailers are upbeat. Colin Sheppard, of Kentdale Land Rover in Kendal, Cumbria, says: “It would be a blow if Land Rover was moved from the place it was born, but the franchise is secure wherever the vehicles are built. Ford has invested heavily and the future looks positive.”
Derek Hammond of Hammond Land Rover adds: “We’ve got fantastic brand loyalty, a robust product plan and a confident dealer network. The network is poised to deliver a profitable result.”
The road map calls for Land Rover to achieve ‘world class’ productivity and quality standards in five years. A spokesperson says production of the next-generation Freelander is due to move to Halewood in 2006, which would give Solihull capacity to build new models, believed to include the Range Rover Sport and Defender.
Fields says: “I am prepared to work with the team to deliver on the ultimate objective of world-class levels in five years. The key now is securing employee commitment to the plan and its implementation. We will give them all the support we can to achieve that and I look forward to reviewing progress by the end of the year.”
The details of the road map have not been disclosed, but they involve operating processes, working practices and people/cultures at the plant.