Tatas explore production facility for JLR in Saudi Arabia

Mumbai/Riyadh, Dec 11 (IANS) The Tata Group is exploring the possibility of setting up an automotive facility in Saudi Arabia for its prestigious Jaguar Land Rover vehicles.

A detailed feasibility study is underway to consider Saudi Arabia as "a possible future location" for a JLR facility and a Letter of Intent (LoI) has been signed with the Saudi government's National Industrial Clusters Development Programme (NICDP), a company official said.

The LoI was signed by NICDP President Azzam Yaser Shalabi and JLR CEO Ralf D. Speth in Riyadh Tuesday.

The discussions for partnership in Saudi Arabia come in the wake of JLR's recent joint venture announcement with Chery Automobile Company Ltd to set up a new plant near Shanghai in China and a separate JLR assembly plant in Pune, India.

The discussions between JLR and the Saudi government centre around opportunities identified in aluminium component production in which JLR has established a leadership position.

Significantly, the world's largest integrated aluminium complex, a joint venture between Saudi Arabian Mining Company and Alcoa of US, is slated to start production in 2014 at Ras Al Khair, throwing open opportunities for the automotive sector.

The JLR has pioneered aluminium body development in the premium car segment, using lightweight metals for its award-winning Jaguar XJ model and the all-new Range Rover, the first luxury sports utility vehicle with an all-aluminium monocoque body structure.

Prince Faisal Bin Turki bin Abdul Azi Al Saud has expressed its intention to develop and support the automotive industries and views JLR as a potential partner to help strengthen their industrialisation plans.

Speth expressed commitment to further international partnerships to meet record demand for its highly sought after vehicles.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an attractive potential development option, complementing our existing advanced facilities in Britain and recent manufacturing plans to expand in other countries including India and China," Speth said.

The expansion projects are supported by a sharp rise in JLR sales contributing to a 32 percent increase in global retail sales to 324,183 vehicles till Nov. 2012.

This year, JLR notched a nine percent hike in sales in the Middle East and North Africa, to 11,418 vehicles.

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