A spokesman said that Land Rover had received 1,500 calls on a special jobs hotline which opened at 7am yesterday morning. Based on past experience, the total number of enquiries would easily exceed 3,000, he added.
Interest in the Freelander has outstripped all expectations since it was unveiled two months ago at the Frankfurt Motor Show with Land Rover dealers having received 10,000 customer enquiries already. Production of the Freelander is expected to reach 55,000 in the first year, of which about 35,000 will be exported. A second shift is being introduced in early December to ensure that Land Rover has enough stocks to meet demand from next year. Once output reaches its peak rate, about 2,000 people will be working on the Freelander production out of a total of 12,000 employed on the Solihull site.
The workforce has risen by 2,500 in the last three years to cope demand for Land Rover's other models, the Defender, Discovery and Range Rover. Production of the Defender is running at record levels whilst double shifts have also been introduced on the Discover and Range Rover lines.
Ian Robertson, Land Rover's managing director, said: "We did not expect to announce the introduction of a night shift on Freelander production at such an early stage." But he said the level of interest had been "incredible". Total Land Rover output this year is set to reach 130,000 rising to 180,000 in 1998. Land Rover has the capaicty to double production of the Freelander to 100,000 if demand is sufficient.
BMW, Rover's German parent company has invested more than pounds 200m in the Freelander as part of a pounds 3bn investment programme for the group. Land Rover is already profitable but BMW expects the whole Rover group to start showing profits by 2000.