Wales

TVR to create 150 sports car jobs in Ebbw Vale

A computer-generated image of what the new TVR might look like Image copyright Autocar/Ben Summerell-Youde
Image caption A computer-generated image of what the new TVR might look like - although the final design will be unveiled later this year

Sports car company TVR is to base its new factory in Wales, First Minister Carwyn Jones has announced.

The plant will create 150 jobs on the Ebbw Vale enterprise zone, which is still hoping to be home to the £325m Circuit of Wales.

New owners, who bought the British brand three years ago, will start production next year.

The company has a 10-year plan, including four new models, and will begin making a few hundred cars a year.

TVR had been looking at three sites around the UK.

Mr Jones said: "This is yet another fantastic high profile investment for Wales and a great boost for our automotive sector.

"TVR is another iconic and much loved, world-class brand that still commands a strong and loyal international following. I am delighted the next generation of TVRs will proudly bear the label Made in Wales."

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Media captionThe history of TVR

There have been 350 advance orders for the car already, after images of what it might look like were released late last year.

TVR chairman Les Edgar said: "This is a fantastic opportunity both for TVR and the Welsh Government.

"South Wales is becoming a major hub for automotive and motor sport technology and development and I am delighted TVR is investing here."

The company hopes to be producing around 2,000 cars a year by 2022, targeting the UK and selected European markets initially.

It will initially assemble the car in Ebbw Vale - bringing in the V8 engines from Cosworth in Northampton.

Former F1 designer Gordon Murray is behind iStream carbon technology to give the new models extra strength.

THE HISTORY OF THE TVR

Image copyright Getty/Evening Standard
Image caption The TVR at the London motor show in 1971
  • Set up in 1947 in Blackpool, producing its first model in 1949, TVR became Britain's largest independent sports carmaker
  • It was founded by mechanic Trevor Wilkinson, who used three consonants from his first name for the company title
  • The company is rescued from bankruptcy in the early 1960s
  • New owner Peter Wheeler, with a background in the oil industry, takes over in 1981 and launches six models and produces 40 models a week
  • The car appeared in a Daffy Duck cartoon and the John Travolta film Swordfish
  • The company is bought by young Russian tycoon Nikolai Smolensky, the son of an oligarch, in 2004
Image caption The TVR Cerbera in 2001
Image copyright Getty Images/Paul Ellis
Image caption The TVR factory in Blackpool closed in 2006
Image copyright Getty/Shaun Curry
Image caption There was lobbying to try to keep the factory open
  • The Blackpool-based company went into administration at the end of 2006 with 250 job losses but the name was bought back by Mr Smolensky
  • He attempted to re-start the brand at St Athan, Vale of Glamorgan, but it came to nothing
  • Former computer games developer Les Edgar led a syndicate to buy the brand in 2013

Analysis by Sarah Dickins, BBC Wales economics correspondent

The automotive industry in Wales already includes 40 component manufacturers and more than 100 other firms in the supply chain.

Ford and Toyota have engine plants and Aston Martin recently announced plans to assemble a new model in the Vale of Glamorgan.

The Welsh Automotive Forum estimates 18,000 people work in the sector in Wales, with sales worth £3.2bn a year.

But the impact of the sector is greater than just the number of people working in it. On the whole it's an industry that pays well. On top of that it has to be innovative.

It is continually having to improve design and models to make vehicles cleaner and more efficient. Component makers also have to keep looking at the way they themselves work so they keep winning contracts to supply the car makers.

As a result, it is an industry that tends to be high on training and big on investment in its people and machines.

That means it is of more benefit to the Welsh economy than the same number of workers in other industries.

TVR will bring much needed jobs to the Heads of the Valleys and a simplified assembly process, so its factory only needs to be 20% of the size of a conventional plant.

It estimates this could reduce capital investment in the assembly plant by around 80%.

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Media captionFirst Minister Carwyn Jones and TVR chairman Les Edgar on the choice of Ebbw Vale

The first minister would not be drawn on how the Welsh Government had supported the deal.

But he said the news, hot on the heels of the Aston Martin announcement "sends out a strong, clear message that Wales is the location of choice for advanced manufacturing".

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns said it showed the Welsh automotive industry was "surging from strength to strength."

He added: "Today's news is yet another strong endorsement of the quality of Britain's car industry, which has been creating jobs, taking on apprentices and contributing to building a stronger economy."

Although an impression of the new car was released last year, the design of the first new vehicle is still under wraps with plans to unveil it towards the end of 2016, with production starting next year.

Circuit of Wales chief executive Martin Whitaker welcomed the news as "fantastic" for the region.

"Paired with Aston Martin's recent announcement, it reinforces our vision of Ebbw Vale and the south Wales region growing into a cluster of excellence for automotive and related industries," he added.

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