Pounds 150m Backing for Land Rover
Cranage, John, The Birmingham Post (England)
Ford will announce today that it is to invest pounds 150 million in Land Rover's Lode Lane factory at Solihull.
The statement will be the first indication of Ford's long-term plans for the world's most successful 4x4 vehicle builder, which it bought from BMW for pounds 1.8 billion on July 1.
Details of the investment will be revealed by Land Rover chief executive Bob Dover at a press conference in France during the official launch of the new V6-engined Freelander.
This is the version that is expected to launch Freelander in the United States and Japan.
Mr Dover is expected to say that the pounds 150 million investment will include money to meet tooling costs for the new 'super' Range Rover, an pounds 80,000 car designed to compete with other luxury models such as the Mercedes-Benz S Class and the BMW 7-Series.
Land Rover was saying little in advance of Mr Dover's announcement later today, but The Birmingham Post understands that the new money will finance a wide-ranging model development plan, as well as plant and infrastructure improvements to Lode Lane, some of which is already in the pipeline.
These were initiated by BMW as part of an earlier pounds 80 million investment plan to boost efficiency and productivity at the Solihull works but were thrown into doubt when BMW announced that it was ditching its loss-making British subsidiary Rover Group, of which Land Rover was part.
The plans include a new press shop - which is due to be opened next month - as well as a new road to improve communications and accessibility around the factory.
The new Range Rover, which will run alongside the existing version for about three years after it comes on stream in 2002, is expected to get its own assembly building.
Land Rover - which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1998 - was once widely regarded as the jewel in Rover's crown but has since been revealed as a loss maker. …