The chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover has unveiled a momentus move to build cars for the first time outside the UK after it was revealed two models would be made in China.
Although the project still has to be given final approval by the Chinese government, the luxury vehicle maker has already earmarked a site for the Land Rover plant, just north of Shanghai.
While the firm has assembled cars elsewhere in the world, it is the first instance of fully manufacturing a vehicle outside the UK.
Chief executive Dr Ralf Speth said: “We will start with either the Freelander or the Evoque.”
But he also confirmed the Range Rover and the Range Rover Sport were unlikely to be built abroad.
“To build the very complex products, we will always be here in the UK,” he said.
The Freelander is already assembled in Pune, India, from kits sent out from the UK, and the Land Rover Defender is assembled in several locations, including Kenya.
But the Shanghai plant will be the company’s first full-scale manufacturing plant abroad, and will use Chinese parts.
The company, which is creating thousands of new jobs in the UK in the wake of a sales boom, insisted that foreign expansion was not a threat to jobs in the UK.
“We are increasing production, not to reduce in the UK, but using the UK base to grow around the world,” said Dr Speth.
The Chinese production plans emerged as JLR launched its new Range Rover in London on Thursday night.
The all-aluminium 4x4 was unveiled at a celebrity-filled bash in Richmond Park.
Comedian Jimmy Carr – who carried a small dog as he posed for pictures – was among the guests.
Also there was Olympic cycling champion Victoria Pendleton, Dragon’s Den tycoon Theo Paphitis, and another London 2012 medallist, Zara Phillips, and her husband, England rugby player Mike Tindall.
Paphitis later tweeted: “Just left the launch of the new Range Rover. What a car! Want one!”
And Carr used his Twitter account to write: “Went to the Range Rover launch in Richmond Park. Beautiful setting for some beautiful British engineering.”