THE first Range Rover made under new social distancing measures in place to combat coronavirus drove off the production line at the Tata Group’s Jaguar Land Rover manufacturing plant in Solihull.
The luxury carmaker said that effective social distancing, hygiene and health monitoring measures are in place following an extensive review of all production lines, engineering facilities, office areas and communal spaces as the company starts a phased return to manufacturing.
“Seeing the first Range Rover come off our line today is a defining moment for Jaguar Land Rover, for all of us who work for the company and the many businesses in our supply chain,” said Grant McPherson, JLR executive director (manufacturing).
“It marks the end of our temporary shutdown and signals the beginning of a return to normality. But, of course, this is a new normal.”
He added that employees will be “experiencing many emotions, ranging from worry about hygiene to relief at being able to return to work and excitement at seeing colleagues again”.
“The health and well-being of our employees has been our primary concern in the build-up to this point,” he said.
JLR, the UK’s largest carmaker, said with the implementation of new safety protocols, staff will experience a significant number of changes to their working day from the moment they enter the site.
Measures include temperature checks with thermal cameras, a two-metre distance between people wherever possible, use of personal protective equipment, one-way systems and enhanced cleaning at the plants. JLR has also distributed reusable face visors made by the company to all staff.
Employees were asked to complete an online clinical questionnaire and sign up to a health and well-being charter before returning to work. They have also been told to monitor their temperature at home before each shift.
Dr Steve Iley, JLR’s chief medical officer, said: “We have been going through unprecedented times and my thoughts are with everyone who has been impacted by Covid-19, as well as with the healthcare professionals, whose role fighting coronavirus is appreciated around the world.
“Clearly the health, safety and well-being of the JLRfamily is our primary concern. We have developed the most effective protocol and guidelines so that our people feel reassured about coming back to the workplace.”
Iley said the UK measures are based on extensive medical and operational review, including lessons learned from JLR teams in China and Slovakia.
Des Quinn, Unite the Union national officer, said: “We are satisfied that Jaguar Land Rover has not only implemented government guidance but has gone above and beyond to satisfy and ensure as many safe systems as possible are in place from the minute employees arrive to the minute they leave work.”
Production of Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles has also resumed this week at Nitra in Slovakia and Graz in Austria.
Last week the team at the Engine Manufacturing Centre in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, began building Ingenium engines again to enable the gradual return to vehicle production.
Manufacturing will resume at the Halewood facility in north-west England on June 8, starting with one shift.
The company said that “small pockets of business-critical activity” are taking place at its Castle Bromwich facility in the West Midlands as it prepares for new model year introductions.
The company’s joint-venture plant in Changshu, China, has been operational since the middle of February as vehicle sales recover there and customers return to showrooms following the easing of the lockdown, JLR said.
“As countries are relaxing distancing guidelines and retailers are reopening around the world, the restart of production at the company’s other plants will be confirmed in due course,” it added.
In its latest financial results last month, JLR reported a 42 per cent fall in sales of Jaguar models between January and March, while sales of Range Rovers and Land Rovers declined 25 per cent.
The company’s total 2019-20 sales were down 12 per cent at 508,659 vehicles, primarily as a result of the coronavirus pandemic significantly impacting sales in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year.