A minister has said the government is supportive of Jaguar Land Rover’s ambition to make Coventry the centre of the global car industry in the future.
The decision to create the Energy Innovation Centre, which specialises in battery technology, and the Automotive Innovation Centre, at Warwick University have placed Coventry in the lead of the race to develop the next generation of electric-powered and driverless vehicles.
But the JLR boss has made it clear that government support is needed to ensure Coventry, and the UK, does not lose the race to lead the evolution of the motor industry.
Mr Speth has said investment is needed in power supply, land and roads, 5G mobile technology to serve driverless cars and infrastructure such as car charging points.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Telegraph, Nick Hurd, minister for industry and climate change, has underlined the government’s support for JLR’s ambitions.
What do you think of JLR’S shopping list?
Mr Hurd said: “I saw Ralf this morning at a meeting of the automotive council.
“Towards the top of that shopping list is about how we position organisations like JLR so they can manufacture future cars.
“The future is going to be electric and ultra-low emission cars.
“What we all want is for the cars, and the bits that make them up, to be built here. If we succeed then this area is going to succeed and benefit from that because of its strengths.
“This area has got a real determination to make that happen, and the government is massively supportive of it.”
He added: “In relation to Jaguar specifically, we’re looking at what can we do to work together to talk seriously about building batteries, which is at the heart of the electric car, here in the UK. That’s the vision.”
Are you confident you can deliver JLR’S shopping list?
Mr Hurd said the government had already committed about £600m to encouraging people to buy electric cars and the infrastructure, such as charging points, to make owning electric vehicles viable for ordinary drivers.
He added: “We certainly share the ambition to make sure that the West Midlands and the UK is superbly positioned to take full advantage of the big change we are seeing in the industry.
“That includes making sure we have infrastructure in place, the energy structure, the charging infrastructure and critical research and development sites.
“Warwick University is a huge asset in that context.
“We’re focused on integrating all that to make the UK super competitive as a place to develop the technology and everything that underpins the future of that industry which seems to be electric.”
Is the money there to deliver the shopping list?
“Money is tight. Everyone knows that, so we have to be smart about how we deploy it.
“But the process of the industrial strategy consultation is that we want to hear from regions that are strategically important. That’s why I’m here today.
“We want to know, what are the growth plans in the area and what do you need to unlock the potential here.
“There’s been money available before, and this area has benefitted from that, there’s an opportunity with the combined authority and devolved powers coming.
“There are resources out there, but it’s about figuring out what’s the smartest way of using them.”
How supportive are you of JLR’s ambitions?
“We’re very supportive of JLR and they know that. They’ve challenged us, quite rightly, but we’re challenging the sector as well.
“This is a massive opportunity and we have to get it right. Jobs may be at risk if we get this wrong.
“If the car industry is changing its technology, we want the UK to be at the front of that.
“We want JLR to succeed.”
Does the Brexit vote strengthen JLR’s hand in negotiations with the government?
“They’re in a strong position because they have a great brand and superb products made by great people.
“They’re in a fantastic situation, but the industry they are in faces a very big change because there will be changes in what we drive, how we drive, even whether we drive.
“In the short term we have got to manage the Brexit issue which is very sensitive for the car industry.
“They have been very clear with us about what they feel is important for the car industry.
“It’s a big priority for the department, the secretary of state and me to support the car industry through the next few years.”