‘Tata has put hundreds of millions into Jaguar Land Rover’

December 12th, 2008 - 3:54 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Dec 12 (IANS) The chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has urged the British government to aid the “jewel in the crown” of Britain’s auto industry, saying owners Tata had already pumped hundreds of millions of pounds into the business. David Smith said the company is “one of a handful of high-tech global icons the UK has left” but warned its future was at risk without a bail-out package.

Smith’s comments, made in an interview with the Birmingham Post newspaper published Thursday, followed a plea for a billion pound package by Lord Kumar Bhattacharya, who heads the Warwick Manufacturing Group, an industry research body located at Warwick University.

British Business Minister Lord Peter Mandelson is said to be considering the plea.

Smith revealed Tata had already pumped hundreds of millions of pounds on commercial terms into supporting the business. But he said the iconic British carmaker now needed short-term government loans as top-up to help it tide over the credit crunch.

“We need to maintain employment and the skills base. It would be a tragedy if JLR had to lose further skilled workers because of the unavailability of finance,” Smith told the newspaper.

“Our issue is about the lack of availability of credit during this very turbulent period.”

He said Tata is a solid business that had taken much time in understanding the JLR operation and the needs of the workforce, and had put trust in local management teams, the Post said.

The Indian group was aware of the depth of technology, the talents of its people and the strength of the company’s assets.

“It is strategically significant for the West Midlands in having a strong Indian partner,” Smith said.

“Yet all these things are potentially at stake. We very much hope Lord Mandelson will support the jewel in the crown of the British car industry.”

Although JLR had made a profit of 400 million pounds in 2007 and a similar amount in the first half of 2008 alone, Smith said sales are likely to be down 35 percent in the fourth quarter.

Some 75,000 jobs are said to be dependent on JLR directly or indirectly.

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