JLR's Mark White: "It's a nice problem to have -- making more cars than you can actually get through the paint shop."
After a year of record global sales of 425,000 vehicles in 2013 and a 14 percent increase in the first half of 2014, Jaguar Land Rover is facing a problem it has not seen in decades: Demand is far outstripping supply on some models.
Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, for example, have a six-month backlog of orders in some markets.
Mark White, JLR’s chief technologist for the company’s body engineering, spoke with Staff Reporter Richard Truett at the seminars.
Has JLR figured out how to boost production of Range Rovers at the Solihull plant in England?
We’ve now got two basically identical body shops to make Range Rover and Range Rover Sport and the long wheelbase version of the Range Rover. We can put additional models into there but we are constrained by things like the paint shop. We can only paint so many cars in the Solihull paint shop.
We will probably max out the paint shop before we max out the body shop. Putting the second body shop in has given us the flexibility to ebb and flow the different models that go through there and meet the capacity demands we’ve got. However, you always hit a bottleneck somewhere. And the paint shop is probably going to be the next biggest obstacle.
Does the situation require investment in a bigger paint shop?
We are always looking at all the efficiencies. I think those things are for the future. We are about to launch the Jaguar XE in Solihull. And that will only add to the problem. It’s a nice problem to have, making more cars than you can actually get through the paint shop. We’re looking at how we deal with that. We have the Halewood plant and the Castle Bromwhich plant, so we can look at where we build what and try to balance that out.
The new Ingenium engines coming late this year are lightweight, with some weighing 176 pounds less than the engines they replace. Why is JLR focusing so much on weight reduction?
It’s part of our long-term strategy. Clearly, saving weight on the body is a great thing to do. But really we need to save weight on the whole vehicle, and that includes the powertrain. We now look at where we can save weight on every new vehicle we do, whether it is the powertrain or the chassis. Electrical is probably the only area where we are not going to save weight because of the growth of the systems.
As Ford gets close to launching the aluminum-bodied F-150, do you have any advice?
It wasn’t that long ago when we used to share things. They have seen where the pitfalls are. I think the F-150 truck will come out of the blocks absolutely sorted and be a huge success.