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Jaguar's move to all-electric cars wins praise

By Earle Gale in London | | Updated: 2021-02-16 23:19
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FILE PHOTO: The Jaguar Land Rover logo is seen at a dealership, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Milton Keynes, Britain, June 1, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

The United Kingdom government should follow the lead of iconic carmaker Jaguar and fully commit to electric automobiles, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has said.

The society, which supports and promotes the interests of the UK automotive industry at home and abroad and which is also known as the SMMT, praised Jaguar's announcement this week that it will ditch its gas-guzzling vehicles and focus on electric cars within the coming four years.

Jaguar's decision means it will end production of everything it currently makes, with the exception of the battery-powered I-Pace.

It said it will also close its plant at Castle Bromwich, near the English city of Birmingham.

The SMMT said the company's bold move should be inspirational for the UK government, which has called for more use of electric vehicles and said that half of the nation's cars must be electric before 2030 and that all new vehicles sold after 2030 must at least be hybrids.

Mike Hawes, the SMMT's chief executive, told The Times newspaper the decision represents "an injection of confidence into the wider sector".

In calling for more support from government to help other makers pull off such a move, he said: "Global competition is fierce. Government must ensure advanced manufacturing has its full support with a policy framework, and plan for growth that reduces costs, accelerates domestic battery production and electrified supply chains, and incentivizes R&D."

Thierry Bollore, who was appointed group chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover last fall, told The Times: "It will be a complete renaissance for Jaguar."

He said the brand, which is owned by the Indian giant Tata Motors, will position itself to compete with luxury marques, including Rolls-Royce and Bentley, instead of going head-to-head with premium brands, such as BMW, as it does now.

The BBC said the company plans to spend about 2.5 billion pounds ($3.5 billion) a year on new technology for its cars.

The UK autoworkers' union Unite said it will not block the company's plans, if Jaguar honors a commitment not to make any forced redundancies. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the change was "a huge step for British car manufacturing".

The company said it plans to centralize production of Jaguar cars in Solihull, which is in the English region of the West Midlands and which is where the group makes the Range Rover; it said it is also set to have its diesel engines phased out by 2026 and to ultimately go electric.

The renaissance at Jaguar is likely to be mirrored by other automakers in the coming years, as nations increasingly ban fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

The Reuters news agency said supercar maker McLaren is among those at the high end of the sector looking for ways to go electric while hanging on to extreme performance and handling.

Ruth Nic Aoidh, the company's executive director, told Reuters that McLaren is rethinking the way it builds vehicles from the wheels up.

"The way companies like ours will find our way to electrification is through innovation," she said. "That will potentially open up doors for return on investments."

Other premium carmakers have also unveiled plans to electrify their vehicles, with Bentley saying recently it will make the switch by 2030.

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