Thursday 13 December 2012

Aluminium is key to JLR’s future success

ACCESS to aluminium could become an important element of a new link between JaguarLandRover (JLR) and the Saudi Arabia government in Riyadh.

The UK-based vehicle builder, owned by Tata Motors of India, has signed a ‘letter of intent’ with the Saudi Arabia government that could pave the way for the company to build vehicles in the Middle Eastern region.

Aluminium has already become an important element of some Jaguar models and the signs are that it will become even more so as increasing attention is focused on ‘light-weighting’ of body-in-white (BIW) structures.

Jaguar already has one of the most up-to-date aluminium stamping lines in the UK at its Castle Bromwich facility in the West Midlands. The Schuler press lines are exclusively used to press skin panels and other components in aluminium.

As time goes by, the utilisation of the lines will increase, and there is the added bonus of Stadco’s Fort Parkway press facility, also in Castle Bromwich, which is not only almost next door, but has similar Schuler press lines. These could be used to provide skin panels for JLR.

According to JLR ‘A detailed feasibility study is now under way to consider Saudi Arabia as a possible future location for a JaguarLandRover automotive facility.’

Production could begin in three to five years and a key attraction is access to a large aluminium smelter that could provide material for JLR. The move could be the first step in a £1 billion collaboration and comes hard on the heels of a similar £1 billion deal to build JLR vehicles in China.

Added JLR: ‘the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an attractive potential development option, complementing our existing advanced facilities in Britain and recent manufacturing plans to expand in other countries, including India and China.’

The company added: Opportunities have already been identified in aluminium component production – an area where JLR has established a leadership position.’

Aluminium is a strategic material and will become increasingly so as JLR spreads material usage wider and deeper throughout its product range. And while the Saudi Arabia initiative contains many if’s, but’s and could’s, there is no doubt in which direction the UK-based company is pushing.

Increased use of aluminium could also provide additional business for German press maker Schuler, without doubt the leading producer of press lines able to process sheet aluminium.

It could be could news too for Stadco which acquired the Fort Parkway facility following the demise of Mayflower Corporation. Stadco has so far failed to make full use of the capacity that is available at the site which as the potential to double its capacity.