Jaguar Land Rover Group is scouting for its first North American factory as part of the British automaker’s global expansion drive to meet luxury car demand with regional manufacturing hubs. Last year, the company opened its first factory outside the U.K., in Changsu, China, and it has another in the works, in Brazil.
“The company is indeed looking at North America as a location for another plant,” Tata Motors Chairman Emeritus Ratan Tata said at the 2015 South Carolina Automotive Summit taking place this week in Greenville. Mumbai-based Tata Motors bought Jaguar Land Rover in 2008 from Ford Motor Co.
Speaking on stage with Automotive News Editor Keith Crain, Tata declined to say whether or not the U.S. is a shoo-in for the factory.
If Jaguar Land Rover decides to build a plant in North America, it could choose Mexico, where the auto industry has developed enough to attract luxury brands in recent years. Audi is building a $1.3 billion plant in Puebla state for its Q5 crossover. Meanwhile, Nissan Motor and Daimler joined to set up a $1.4 billion plant in Aguascalientes state to build 300,000 Infinitis and Mercedes-Benzes each year.
The news that the U.S. might get a new foreign luxury auto factory comes after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported earlier this month that Georgia might be a contender for the Jaguar Land Rover factory. Gov. Nathan Deal visited with the company’s directors during a secretive economic development mission to Britain. Last fall, the Sunday Times of London named South Carolina as a potential location.
If Jaguar Land Rover chooses the American South as the location of a U.S. manufacturing site, it would be a relative latecomer among luxury carmakers who have set up shop in nonunion, right-to-work Southern states. BMW has been building cars in Spartanburg, South Carolina, since 1994; Mercedes-Benz planted its factory flag in Vance, Alabama, in 1997. Last month, Mercedes-Benz USA LLC said it was relocating its headquarters from Montvale, New Jersey, to Atlanta, "in a move designed to better serve its growing customer base and strengthen the company's position for long-term sustainable growth."