Jaguar Land Rover will build its iconic Defender in Slovakia, not the UK

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Source: REUTERS

Jaguar Land Rover will build the next generation of its Defender in Slovakia, adding to worries over the future of the British car industry.

The automaker, which is owned by India’s Tata Motors, confirmed this week that production of the iconic Defender will resume at a plant in Slovakia that opened in October 2018. The previous version of the boxy SUV was made in England until 2016.

The production shift is the latest in a series of developments that have shaken the foundations of UK carmaking, some of them related to uncertainty about supply chains and access to European markets after Brexit.

Honda announced in February that it would close its only plant in the Britain after three decades, wiping out 3,500 jobs and putting thousands more at risk. Nissan has scrapped plans to build its new X-Trail SUV in England, and relocated production of two luxury models out of Britain.

Jaguar Land Rover, the largest carmaker in the United Kingdom, had already announced plans in January to reduce its global workforce by 4,500. That’s in addition to 1,500 people who left the company last year. German auto parts supplier Schaeffler is closing two plants in Britain.

Global automakers are struggling to adapt to regulatory and technological changes that require huge new investments. But carmakers with operations in the United Kingdom have faced the additional challenge of three years of uncertainty over Brexit, an event that — should it ever happen — threatens to disrupt the supply chains and trading rules on which they depend.

Investment in the car industry halved in 2018, according to the UK Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. According to data published this week by the industry group, UK car production declined by more than 14 percent in March, the 10th consecutive monthly decline.

Mike Hawes, CEO of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said that moving the Brexit deadline to the end of October had created a “new period of limbo” that would halt investment and cause expensive factory shutdowns.

The industry had been on track to produce 2 million cars a year by 2020, but that target is now “impossible” because Britain’s reputation as stable and attractive business environment has been undermined by Brexit, Hawes added.