HALEWOOD, UK - Jaguar's new small car will be rear-wheel drive.
Jaguar will convert an £800,000 ($1.3 million) robot to install the engine and rear-drive axle in the X400 in 2001.
Halewood engineering supervisor Jim Owens said that modifying the robot will be cost effective. A new robot, he said, such as one used by Volkswagen in Wolfsburg, Germany, would cost £2.2 million.
Management control of the Halewood plant is shifting from Ford to Jaguar. Workers will be retrained and machinery changed to handle the switch from 140,000 Escorts annually to 100,000 X400s.
The X400 is a new segment for Jaguar, competing against the Mercedes-Benz C-class and BMW 3 series. Both competitors are also rear-wheel drive.
Owens said the drivetrain will be new, although it will be based on other Ford products. The robot now fits the engine, transmission and rear wheel units into the front-drive Escort. It was originally installed in 1989 at a cost of £800,000. The robot saved 10 production staff members per shift compared with using separate robots for front and rear units.
Jaguar has not announced which platform the X400 will use. Jaguar's larger X200, a BMW 5-series competitor, will use the DEW98 world platform also used by Lincoln in the USA. The X200 could use a smaller version.