Financial Mail

Landy faithful need defender


Spare a thought for the automotive industry as sales plunged off a cliff in April. With dealers closed and potential buyers vanishing, Jaguar’s sales for the month in the UK dropped 85%, while Land Rover was even worse, with a mere 79 sales in the month, a drop of a fairly terrifying 99%. Production came to a grinding halt until it reopened its Solihull factory last week with a whole raft of social distancing and employee safety measures in place, but the future for its 40,000 employees and its legion of suppliers looks far from secure.

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is reported to be burning through cash at a rate of £1bn a month, and its owner Tata is under pressure to use all its resources to prop up its Indian operations. JLR does not qualify for the UK government’s corporate paper scheme, which applies only to companies with an investment-grade credit rating, and it has had to go cap in hand to the government to ask for an emergency lifeline of some sort.

Rumours that the government is considerin­g issuing loans that will convert to equity might be a little alarming for those who remember the shambles that was British Leyland, the government’s last dabble in auto manufactur­ing.

Far more pleasant to recall the heyday of these iconic brands, which after a long period in the doldrums are now both producing high-quality, appealing vehicles.

There may well be structural shifts in the industry if working from home gains permanent traction, but for now the challenge is to get through the next few months.

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