First Land Rover rolls out of Indian factory

PIMPRI, May 27, 2011 (AFP) – Mumbai-based Tata Motors opened its first Indian factory on Friday for Land Rovers, the formerly loss-making British brand aiming to make inroads in the booming South Asian market. A Freelander 2 sports utility vehicle was the first to roll out of the plant on the outskirts of Pune, some 100 kilometres (60 miles) from India’s financial capital Mumbai.

Production of Jaguars — the Land Rover stablemate bought in the same 2.3-billion-dollar deal between Tata and Ford in 2008 — is expected to begin at the plant at a later date.

Auto sector analysts say the move will help Jaguar and Land Rover lower costs and become more competitive in India — the world’s fastest-growing major car market — where rivals BMW, Daimler and Audi are already well-established.

Tata announced bumper profits of 92.7 billion rupees ($2.04 billion) on Thursday, of which the vast majority — 1.7 billion dollars — came from the Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) unit.

“We are very optimistic about Jaguar Land Rover in terms of volume growth,” JLR’s chief executive Ralf Speth told a news conference in Mumbai after reporting a 25-percent rise in annual unit sales to 243,621.

Ford offloaded J