2,000,000TH Land Rover DefenderEnlarge Photo
Jaguar Land Rover, like most major automakers, is seeking to expand its production base to more locations around the globe in an effort to hedge against currency fluctuations as well as take advantage of lower costs and improved logistics in various regions. Late last year it started production outside of the United Kingdom for the first time when versions of the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque started rolling out of a plant in China. And in 2016 Jaguar Land Rover will start production of the Discovery Sport in Brazil.
Soon, we will likely have to add Slovakia to that list. Recently, the British automaker signed a letter of intent with the government in the Eastern European country for a potential new plant. Other locations considered included the United States, Mexico as well as some other European countries.
A feasibility study to explore plans for the Slovakian plant, which is to have an installed capacity of up to 300,000 vehicles over the next decade, is currently underway. It is anticipated that the first cars will come off the line in 2018, though everything remains subject to the outcome of the feasibility study which won’t be completed until later this year.
Jaguar Land Rover said the plant would be used for production of lightweight aluminum vehicles, though is yet to mention a specific model. It's thought that the plant may become a hub for the next-generation Defender off-roader due in the coming years. Jaguar Land Rover is keen to keep the cost of the new Defender low, even while moving to more expensive aluminum construction. Another contender is the LR4-replacing Discovery. Both the new Defender and Discovery are expected to feature a version of the aluminum-intensive Premium Lightweight Architecture (PLA) used in Land Rover’s pricey Range Rover SUVs.
Slovakia is already a major production hub for several marques. The Volkswagen Group builds the Audi Q7 and VW Touareg there, as well as bodies for the Porsche Cayenne (and soon the Bentley Bentayga). The country is also home to production facilities for Kia and PSA Peugeot Citroën.