COVENTRY, UK - Jaguar will decide where to build its X400 challenger to the BMW 3 series and Mercedes-Benz C-class shortly after Christmas.
Four locations are under consideration: Halewood, UK; Cologne in Germany; and Ford plants in Ohio and Michigan, USA.
Halewood is the front runner.
'It is our very strong view that we would like to do the car in the UK,' said Jaguar Chairman Nick Scheele. 'But the group investigating the location has not yet come up with the final numbers.'
He said that Ford Chairman 'Alex Trotman has said it would be a big decision to take Jaguar out of the UK.'
The plant will have a capacity of at least 100,000 units a year, said Scheele. Jaguar also plans to assemble 25,000-50,000 knock-down kits a year in Asia and South America.
Scheele denied UK newspaper reports that he had met officials of the Department of Trade and Industry.
'The only grounds on which we can approach the DTI would be if the plant looked like going outside UK and a grant would bring it back,' he said.
'But where the plant will be is not a political issue. The choices are being considered by our Industrial Development Unit. Its remit is to study the relative costs.'
Jaguar aims to raise total annual output to 250,000 units a year within five years. 'If the X400 comes out as planned,' said Scheele, 'we shall have a new model every nine months from 1999 onwards.'