Belfast Telegraph

Belfast firm Montupet £7m Jaguar deal may open floodgates for more

Belfast firm wins out over European rivals for tie-in with Jaguar Land Rover

By John Mulgrew

Belfast car parts maker Montupet's £7m deal with giant Jaguar Land Rover "could open up" further major deals in the coming years, after it fought off stiff competition from European rivals.

And Alan Malcomson, engineering manager at Montupet - which employs around 600 staff here - says Brexit isn't slowing the burgeoning business down, and it doesn't have "any immediate concerns".

"Its an important boost to us," he told the Belfast Telegraph. "The volume for this isn't that big, and is up to 100,000 (units) a year.

"But it's an opportunity to get a foot in the door and will maybe open up more opportunities in future."

The firm manufactures cast aluminium cylinder heads for petrol diesel engines used for car makers Ford, Peugeot, Citroen, Volvo, Fiat and Mazda.

But it's now landed a deal to produce cylinder heads for one of the fastest growing car firms in the world - potentially worth tens of millions in future sales.

“Jaguar Land Rover has doubled its global sales, and sells half a million (vehicles) globally, so there’s a big share to be had,” Mr Malcomson said.

“In this particular case, we had been working on it for a few months. We get the initial inquiry, and then we get feasibility studies.

“We are the only UK-based manufacturer (doing this). There would be competition elsewhere in Europe, and sometimes eastern Europe.

“We are competing with lower cost base countries.

“It’s important we work hard on our costs, to remain competitive. That has meant a lot of investment and flexibility in our workforce.”

But he said the company “sees no immediate concern with the current business” in terms of Brexit.

“When we are faced with the cost base we have, especially energy, we have to continue to work on finding new ideas to remain competitive.

“From the Brexit point of view, there are no immediate concerns.”

Montupet has operated in Northern Ireland since 1989, using the former home of car maker DeLorean.

Last year, the company announced a new £140m contract for the Dunmurry plant.

Earlier this year, Montupet’s French parent company was taken over by family-run Canadian firm Linamar.

“The Belfast plant continues to be one of the most profitable in the Montupet group. We are in a strong position,” Mr Malcomson said.

And he said, so far, big US customers, such as General Motors, had not expressed any concerns about Brexit.

He said that while the initial deal with Jaguar Land Rover is for between 80,000 and 100,000 units, Montupet is in a “good position” to win bigger deals with the car giant when it begins building new lines of engines.

Jaguar Land Rover is owned by Indian firm Tata Motors.

Mr Malcomson said the order would secure around 40 jobs at the firm.

“Our main focus is focussing on quality, and continuing to work on our cost base,” he said. And he also backed up urgent calls for a dedicated manufacturing strategy for Northern Ireland, in the wake of major job cuts in the sector here.

It comes after Economy Minister Simon Hamilton denied claims of a manufacturing crisis here.

Mr Malcomson said energy costs in Northern Ireland — which are among the highest in Europe — were also one of the key areas which needed to be targeted.

Belfast Telegraph