GENEVA -- A U.S. factory is a must if Jaguar Land Rover is to continue to grow and stay competitive, says CEO Ralf Speth.
But the U.K. automaker has to find one product with annual sales of 30,000 to 40,000 to make a U.S. assembly plant worthwhile, he said.
Speth said a vehicle produced in the U.S. would have to be sold primarily in that market. Jaguar Land Rover does not want to export a large number of U.S.-made vehicles overseas, he said.
The group's best-selling vehicle in the U.S. last year was the Range Rover Sport at just under 18,000 units.
Speth said a healthy supply of aluminum also is essential because JLR plans to use aluminum spaceframes for all its vehicles and use aluminum components extensively.
With the introduction of Ford's aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup -- and other makes expected to increase use of aluminum -- Speth said the supply and quality of the material will likely improve in the U.S.
He said the decision to build a factory is about three years away because JLR has the resources to do only one major plant at a time. In October, it opened a plant in China in a joint venture with Chery Automobile.
Late last year, ground was broken for a factory in Brazil.
Speth wouldn't speculate on what vehicle would be built in the United States, but he conceded that a premium crossover would make the most sense.
Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Motors, which owns Jaguar Land Rover, said last month that a North American plant is under consideration. According to media reports, Georgia officials are seeking to land the factory.