Jaguar Land Rover has opened their new $1.6 billion factory in Nitra, Slovakia, which will soon commence full-scale production of Discoverys. All Discovery production will be shifted to Nitra from Solihull, England.
The Nitra plant was originally going to produce Discovery 5 models alongside Solihull, but full production has now been moved there to make room to begin developing new platforms in Solihull, including a heavy investment in electric and hybrid vehicles on a custom platform that can also be used with gasoline and diesel motors. Solihull will continue to produce Range Rovers, Range Rover Sports, and Range Rover Velars. Range Rover Evoques and Discovery Sports will continue to be built in Halewood, England, near Liverpool. There are rumors that the new Defender may be built in Nitra.
This is Land Rover’s first full-scale global-market factory outside of England. Vehicles have been assembled around the world for regional markets, most of them with complete knock-down (CKD) kits sent from England. JLR has a joint venture in China, a factory in Brazil, and contract manufacturing in India and Austria. (The latter builds the Jaguar E-Pace and I-Pace.) Nitra-built vehicles will be distributed globally.
Slovakia is home to several major automakers’ factories, including Volkswagen, Peugeot Citroen, and Kia. It has a lower average wage than many other countries in the European Union. Automotive manufacturing comprises 44% of the Slovak economy. Along with the main Discovery production, parts of the supply chain are also being moved to Slovakia for the vehicle, including items such as seats and wheels.
The Nitra plant is massive – 3.2 million square feet. It can produce up to 150,000 cars a year to begin with, and there’s lots of room for expansion. It uses the Kuka Pulse system to carry the in-progress vehicles around, which is 30% faster than the conventional systems used at Solihull and many other auto plants. The paint shop is highly automated to reduce errors and environmental impact. The entire facility is designed to allow for future technologies in manufacturing management.
At the new plant, 98% of the workers are Slovak, and 30% are women. So far there are 1,500 employees, with 850 more to be recruited soon. There is a new Training Academy for them to learn the ropes at, as part of a required 12-week course.
JLR is also connecting to the community in Nitra and has started a fund to support future local outreach projects. They have already participated in 12, including a therapeutic room for children with special sensory needs, and have contributed 500 volunteer hours in the community. The Land Rover 4x4 in Schools program has taken place in Slovakia for three years now, a competition focusing on creating remote-control 4x4 vehicles.
The Nitra factory is poised to be a huge part of the future of Land Rover, including possibly being the home of the new Defender. Though the entire line is now no longer primarily made in England, it is clear JLR is dedicated to tying themselves to the community in Nitra just as they have in Halewood, Wolverhampton, Gaydon, and Solihull.
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