Jaguar Land Rover is building an electric version off-road Defender in Slovakia, as part of the company’s commitment to manufacturing the British vehicle outside its own country.
JLR has not revealed any details about its electric plans, but a spokesperson has confirmed that Nitra, Slovakia will remain the “home of Defender”. Range Rovers are made in the UK. The electric versions of these models will be produced there as well.
JLR already announced plans to manufacture nine electric models before the end of this decade, as part of its new strategy in anticipation of a UK-wide ban on petrol and Diesel cars.
Nitra, which opened its plant in 2018, has been producing the combustion engine Defender and Discovery. This will come as a disappointment to UK Ministers who hoped that Britain’s biggest car manufacturer would produce more EVs. According to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers, the UK auto industry is in decline and will produce 775,000 vehicles in 2022. This is 10% less than last year.
Customers of the Defender include pop stars like Paul McCartney and the late Queen Elizabeth II. The Defender has been JLR’s top-selling model in the last two year due to a resurgence of popularity. It generated 10 times more revenue in 2015 than the classic Defender, according to the company.
Defender was the name given to the original 1948 model in 1990. The production of the classic Defender ended in January 2016.
Barbara Bergmeier is JLR’s executive Director of Industrial Operations. She has called for a postponement of the new “rules-of-origin” tariffs, which are set to be implemented next year. They would apply to cars manufactured in Nitra, and sold in Britain. According to the new rules, EVs sold between the UK, EU and other countries will be subject to a 10% duty if they are less than 45% made in the region. This is stipulated by post-Brexit agreement.
In an interview on Wednesday at the Nitra site, she stated: “We welcome a practical move that gives us the opportunity to prepare. Especially around the battery.” “We would be happy if the date was moved to a later period.”
Arrival of cheaper Chinese EVs into Europe has raised concerns over whether European manufacturers will be able to compete on price. The European Commission is examining whether tariffs should be introduced to prevent the influx of EVs which have benefited from Chinese subsidies.
Thomas Mueller, Executive Director of Product Engineering at JLR, says that as a manufacturer with a higher market share, JLR is less vulnerable to Chinese competitors such as BYD.
Mueller, in Whitley, West Midlands at the opening of JLR’s new electrification centre, said that the Chinese price war will not last. The new facility will be devoted to developing electric drive units rather than manufacturing vehicles.
Mueller stated, “I believe we will see some changes within the next 12-24 months.” You can see that the media calls it a price war, but it is not sustainable for anyone. We are very happy to not be in this space.”