Tata's purchase of Jaguar and Land Rover will lead to a host of new models from both brands over the next five years. ( Autocar )
Soon after Tata Motors completed its ?1.2 billion deal to take control of the two British brands last week, chairman Ratan Tata confirmed his intention to back a five-year investment plan to build and develop new Jaguars and Land Rovers in the UK.
"We have enormous respect for the two brands," said Tata, "and will endeavour to preserve and build on their heritage and competitiveness, keeping their identities intact. We aim to support their growth."
Projects that had previously been mooted at loss-making Jaguar have been given the go-ahead for development from Tata, according to sources at the company.
A two-seat, ?40k sports car called the XE is perhaps the most exciting prospect. Jaguar has wanted a new-age 'F-type' since 2000 and Ratan Tata appears to have given the project his full backing.
The sports car - codenamed Project X700 - is currently in the design and planning stages and will be developed for a 2012 launch. It's not yet clear whether the XE will be based on the XF or the XK platform.
Meanwhile, Land Rover is focusing on developing the LRX for 2011. One of Tata's first major decisions is to rubber-stamp an expansion at the Halewood plant on Merseyside, which will allow the factory to double its production capacity to 210,000 units by 2012. The LRX will be built here.
The only question is whether the chic small SUV will be called LRX, LR4 or LR1; the latter title would fit in better with Land Rover's US branding.
We know that a five-year deal is in place for Jaguar and Land Rover models to use Ford engines, with Tata indicating that this will be a longer-term commitment. Tata has also stated that it will keep British plants and job levels at both manufacturers safe until 2012.
However, it is believed that Tata/Land Rover has a deal in place with the Indian army to build thousands of Defenders for military use. This could see production of the classic Land Rover switching to a new hub near Delhi in order to satisfy extra demand.Tata's billionaire boss is 71 years old and is expected to retire at 75. That means that he could step down from his role just before Tata's five-year engine deal with Ford ends, along with its 2012 commitment to British workers. Such a possibility poses as yet unanswered questions about the brands' longer-term futures in the UK. However, it is worth remembering that Ratan Tata sits on the Fiat board, so there is potential for Jaguar to develop new technology-sharing and even manufacturing relationships with Alfa and Maserati.