Currently reading: Dear Thierry: Our advice for Jaguar Land Rover's new CEO
As Thierry Bolloré takes over as boss of JLR, we offer him some advice in an open letter
Steve Cropley Autocar
News
10 mins read
18 September 2020

Warmest congratulations on taking the Jaguar Land Rover job, and especially on keeping your candidacy out of the public eye while the long-winded Tata recruitment process played out. It’s remarkable that our own Financial Times, which prides itself on knowing what comes next, didn’t even mention you in its recent list of probables. Full marks for your discretion.

At Autocar, we were very much looking forward to your arrival. The UK car business is dominated by German and German-influenced managers – and has a great deal to thank them for – but it’ll be fascinating to see whether you bring a different management style, and how that plays out. The variety will be refreshing.

Although your career at Renault was rudely interrupted last year (we understand it was for political reasons rather than matters of competence), it’s clear your achievements are many and your international experience is great. In particular, your former life as a close associate of ‘le cost cutter’, Carlos Ghosn, looks appropriate. We imagine this might have been part of your appeal to your new bosses at Tata.

However, one thing we’ll be keen to hear is how you reckon managing a couple of old-established premium marques dovetails with what you’ve done in the mass car market and component supply businesses so far. For many of us, this will be question one, and it is on the presumption that you don’t yet know everything that we, as long-term reporters of Jaguar’s and Land Rover’s challenges, put forward this list of early priorities…

First things first

Most important, you must strongly signal – and keep signalling – an abiding admiration for what has been built. Times are hard but this is not a broken company. As the new voice, you will command a lot of attention and we hope you will use it. True, the losses are alarming (£422 million for the year to March, and much bigger reverses the previous year), but these are exceptional times and even JLR’s sternest critics know it.

For most of the decade your predecessor Sir Ralf Speth was in charge, JLR posted successive achievements. In 11 years, the two marques have made pre-tax profits totalling £10 billion-plus (even after taking into account a bone-shaking £4bn loss in 2018 after the ‘perfect storm’ in China). Headcount has trebled since 2009, revenue has quadrupled and investment has expanded fivefold. JLR now has magnificent new test tracks and engineering facilities.

A much-needed new look has been found for Jaguar. The JLR product portfolio has expanded from eight to 13 models. Annual sales have risen 150% to 500,000 cars, admittedly lower than the 614,000 peak three years ago and likely to go lower in the short term. But JLR today remains the UK’s biggest R&D spender and one of its best innovators, already operating carbon-neutral factories. A new Destination Zero mission (zero accidents, zero congestion, zero pollution) is well under way. Your fresh voice can remind the world of this. Which is absolutely not to say the situation can’t be improved. We’ve divided our suggestions into three sections: JLR corporate, Jaguar product and Land Rover product.

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JLR corporate actions

■ Take immediate control of statements about JLR’s policy and future. The Tata chairman recently announced that a chunk of JLR would not be sold, as is sometimes suggested, to a partner. That announcement could have been a powerful statement from you.

■ Put an early end to the ‘will they close Castle Bromwich?’ debate. Kill it or preserve it – depending on your future decisions about the company’s ideal volume – but don’t allow further dithering.

■ Carefully consider accepting current Jaguar Land Rover volumes of around 400,000 to 500,000 cars a year or perhaps even shrinking, while enhancing profitability by concentrating on models that start further up the pricing scale. One strong argument says Jaguars should start around £45,000, not below £30,000. We’d support the notion of fewer models, maybe less practical but conceived always to inflame buyer desire.

■ Devolve your marques further. Don’t just move Jaguar and Land Rover apart but consider separating Range Rover, too. Let Land Rover carry kids and tow the horseboxes; set Range Rover free as the aspirational leader. Forget selling Jaguars to BMW 3 Series buyers; turn Jags into Bentleys for people who aren’t inclined to spend that much.

■ Chase quality as never before. It’s no secret that JLR still spends too much on rectification of new cars. Hire the best quality experts from VW, Toyota or Daimler and give them carte blanche to change your processes and designs to enhance quality.

■ Separate your Jaguar and Land Rover Classic/Special Vehicle operations, at least in the eye of outsiders. Sure, it’s good housekeeping to bundle them in an outer-Coventry industrial unit, but that does little for brand loyalty. People don’t buy a JLR.

■ Overhaul communications policy. Both Jaguar and Land Rover trade on exceptional post-war heritages built more by accident than design, but the era of happy accidents is over. You need far-sighted, high-powered marque strategists along the lines of Ford’s legendary Walter Hayes to devise ways of utilising your wonderful back stories and adding new strands.

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Jaguar actions

■ Redouble your efforts to find a modern mission for the Jaguar brand. BMW makes driving machines; Audi does high technology; Mercedes invented the car. What does Jaguar do? At Autocar, we think the marque stands for superb prestige-car value, driving that combines sporting character with great refinement and – above all – exceptional beauty using the human forms of the D-Type or E-Type. Your Jaguar design chief, Julian Thomson, is already working hard on this last part.

■ Find a halo product for Jaguar along the lines of the Land Rover Evoque, which grew out of a ‘no rules’ concept project. We see this as nothing less than the golden key to Jaguar viability.

■ Take bold action (see above) to lower Jaguar’s age profile. It suffers from ‘this is my last car’ syndrome. We’d love to see a prestigious and superbly styled concept that takes advantage of the built-in cuteness and sportiness of small size. An electrified A-Pace, perhaps.

■ Launch your electric luxury saloon as soon as possible. Jaguar’s advantage in beating the market with the I-Pace is leaking away because that fine car looks more and more like a one-hit wonder.

■ Take much more trouble to give the F-Type sports car extra gravitas. Three-quarters of today’s Porsches are saloons or SUVs, yet the 911 is still revered as the marque’s centrepiece in a way that the F-Type never has been. Give it a mission and a back story. And a big future.

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■ Decide a firm Jaguar saloon policy. Pundits say saloons still make up 50% of world demand for cars. Find a way to participate better in that demand. Maybe you combine your two models (the XE and the XF), adding beauty and luxury along the way.

■ Think hard about another project along the lines of the C-X75 supercar your predecessor now regrets not putting into production. That car’s concept generated worldwide attention. Another would do the same. How about a C-X90?

Land Rover actions

■ Give Range Rover its freedom. Point it squarely at the Bentley Bentayga on price and prestige.

■ Face up to the issue that Land Rovers are commonly viewed as unfashionably heavy and diesel powered, perhaps by showing us what a lighter, more efficient electrified 2025 concept could look like. Buyers need a more progressive view of the future.

■ Increase toughness in Land Rovers. Greater emphasis on ‘relevant capability’ rather than ‘drive to school’ factors is needed because the latter has been overemphasised in the recent past.

■ Find a design advocate and leader with the same high profile and authority as current incumbent Gerry McGovern (age 64), ready to step up whenever he chooses to go. Much of Land Rover’s current success is down to McGovern’s ability to carry fine design right through to production.

■ Get on with expanding the third Defender model pillar, not least to show that the pillar theory is still valid. We’re impatient about Discovery progress, too. That’s the one recent Landie that didn’t work.

■ Give new impetus to Land Rover Experience, the experiential marketing business. There are centres around the world, but the company seems to have stopped talking about them (and not just for Covid-19 reasons). These provide oxygen for much-missed ‘Mr Land Rover’ characters the company has always had. The modern company seems to have lost the awareness that it still needs heroes.

Given your other pressing tasks, Thierry, not least just keeping this thing afloat while controlling costs and chasing quality as never before, running JLR looks awesomely difficult. We admire your courage in taking it on. With our loyal readers, we also wish you great and lasting success. To a person, we’re already excited about the fine new models that success will bring and, of course, we have many news pages ready and waiting.

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With all best wishes,

Steve Cropley

Outgoing CEO Ralf Speth on JLR's future

In tough times, it’s difficult to see the big picture, which is one reason why Britain’s highest-achieving car industry chief in living memory, Jaguar Land Rover CEO Sir Ralf Speth, slips into retirement with none of the fanfare that would usually attend such a high-profile departure. Another reason is that this is how he likes it.

Despite recent reverses, Speth and his Tata backers have trebled the company’s size in a decade, establishing it as the UK’s biggest car maker – with a respect and presence on the international stage never seen before. They have equipped it with last-word design and engineering facilities, spread its manufacturing capability around the world, moved it firmly into electrification with a new battery assembly centre and encouraged it to think far into the future via a project Speth dubs Destination Zero: no congestion, no pollution, no accidents.

We meet in JLR’s mighty Gaydon design and engineering hub, opened just a year ago, but to Speth’s regret the place isn’t buzzing as normal from the presence of its usual 12,000 inmates. Most are still working from home. He firmly believes ideas and innovation are fed by meetings in canteens or coffee shops and passionately looks forward to their reinstatement. Not that he’ll be around to participate. His new role as non-executive deputy chairman will keep him apprised of major JLR events but that’s as far as it will go. “Whoever needs my help can have it with pleasure,” he says, “but I will also make sure the new team has all the freedom I had. The CEO is the CEO. When I took over, Mr Ratan Tata explained our major objectives, then allowed my team and me to do things our way. He trusted us. It will be the same for Mr Bolloré.”

There is no handover period, it seems. Speth says he had met Bolloré a couple of times before the recruitment process began but doesn’t know him well. The new CEO’s first week, under way as you read this, started with Jaguar and Land Rover product reviews on Monday and Tuesday, then a ride-and-drive session on Wednesday. Speth won’t participate.

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“Mr Bolloré is a seasoned manager,” says Speth. “He will have his own ideas and he knows what to do. He worked a lot in the supplier area, so he has seen car making from many angles, not just one. And he was the successor to Ghosn, so he has a good profile. We can rely on him.”

Despite so many recent, unprecedented bumps in JLR’s road, Speth remains convinced JLR’s case making and selling privately owned premium cars remains as strong as ever. “We may even see a renaissance,” he says. “The safety and security of cars has suddenly become extremely important. And as far as premium goes, many people have money to spend and no effective way of investing it. I believe they’ll use cars more for enjoyment and less for just going to the office. Better design and better technology means better life.

“Whatever happens, mobility will remain key to society, and car mobility is especially back in favour. University studies have consistently shown a close correlation between greater mobility and greater wellness and wealth.”

Intriguingly for a man who has led so much change, Speth doubts that vehicle concepts will change much in the foreseeable future. The industry will get better at streamlining them and cars will have different propulsion systems. But size and function won’t be greatly different. There won’t be just one propulsion technology in future but many – including the hydrogen fuel cell propulsion currently in the news. “We shouldn’t fear that we’ll run out of energy in the world,” says Speth. “There’s enough. We just have to learn more about harvesting it.”

Speth hasn’t had much chance to indulge his engineer’s love of getting the spanners out and fettling his classic car fleet (which includes a Land Rover S1, Jaguar E-Type, XK140 and Mk2 saloon) but he intends to change all that, starting with a fuel system overhaul for the Landie. He refuses to name a favourite among the cars produced on his watch, although the I-Pace was the biggest coup and the highest achiever. With the Defender alongside it.

Above all, Speth retains the abiding love for the two “iconic” British brands that brought him back to the UK in 2010 from a rewarding job in Germany, working with his mentor and equally car-minded colleague Wolfgang Reitzle. “You want to do something special in life, and this was a calling,” he says. “It was about bringing back the glory of Jaguar and Land Rover. Maybe that sounds a bit naive. But in the end, I think we did a lot.

READ MORE

Ex-Renault boss Thierry Bollore named as new JLR CEO 

Jaguar Land Rover records £422m loss in last financial year 

Jaguar's new design era: the man behind its future

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Comments
38

18 September 2020
More than a couple of the bullet points on this " open letter " have already been addressed, and can be read on the recent article about the delay of the presentation of the new XJ and EV Range Rover. Perhaps Mr. Cropley should try and read the magazine/website for which he writes for?

Re: The " pillars " - There shouldn't be a Discovery pillar. The Defender covers that, and a smaller ( 70/100, maybe ) version of it could take the place of the Disco Sport and be the volume seller. And Jags SUVs should be much more differentiated from their RR stable mates.

18 September 2020
tuga wrote:

The " pillars " - There shouldn't be a Discovery pillar. The Defender covers that, and a smaller ( 70/100, maybe ) version of it could take the place of the Disco Sport and be the volume seller. And Jags SUVs should be much more differentiated from their RR stable mates.

Discovery needs re-invention as electric cross-overs. It should have 2 models:

- Matra Rancha Style Crossover, think estate car meets SUV and electric

- Discovery - More estate like, longer in length than the sport but shorter than current model and closer to the ground. Go all out for Families who want premium adventure for BMW 3 series budgets.

Range Rover then gains two new models. A bigger 7 seater at the top end and a 7 seat version of the Velar

Defender - should have a model below the 90, to go head on with the Jeep Wrangler.

19 September 2020

In one part you're praising the increased sales at JLR and then telling them to cut them back!

 

Stating that 50% of demand is for saloon cars and telling them to drop the XE?

 

Ralf Speth looks to have done a superb job, and he's recognised something that most would overlook. More happens between the meetings when people meet casually over coffee or in the canteen. It is why Steve Jobs redesigned the Pixar building to get more interaction between people.

 

Jaguar can not move in to the higher 50k+ area and must seek to bring premium to the sub 30k market, and lower. It must compete on all levels with the German rivals, not through patriotism but for business. Jaguar must have steps on a ladder that customers can get on and step on upwards. This also with shared componentry makes the business viable.

 

 

18 September 2020

Well as long we you are not asking the bloke for much!

18 September 2020

And maybe one piece of advice for you and your fellow journaists Steve is to not always overpraise JLR cars and make them sound better than they really are, only to later admit they were not as good as you'd told all your readers.

Test and judge them objecitvely and without bias and let them succeed/fail on their own merit.

18 September 2020
Overdrive wrote:

And maybe one piece of advice for you and your fellow journaists Steve is to not always overpraise JLR cars and make them sound better than they really are, only to later admit they were not as good as you'd told all your readers.

Test and judge them objecitvely and without bias and let them succeed/fail on their own merit.

Er what about BMW? They make the worst interiors of the big German brands, only for Autocar to heap praise on them by writing about how well they handle (forgetting that Alfa and Jaguar do a better job on that front). I have a BMW, as recommended by Autocar and I'm annoyed I didn't buy a Merc instead now...

Also how about writing a few articles about reliability and build quality? I'd like for readers to see how badly the Germans are now doing on that front. Sorry had a bad BMW experience I guess.... wishing I had bought British.

TS7

18 September 2020
TStag wrote:

Overdrive wrote:

And maybe one piece of advice for you and your fellow journaists Steve is to not always overpraise JLR cars and make them sound better than they really are, only to later admit they were not as good as you'd told all your readers.

Test and judge them objecitvely and without bias and let them succeed/fail on their own merit.

Er what about BMW? They make the worst interiors of the big German brands, only for Autocar to heap praise on them by writing about how well they handle (forgetting that Alfa and Jaguar do a better job on that front). I have a BMW, as recommended by Autocar and I'm annoyed I didn't buy a Merc instead now...

Also how about writing a few articles about reliability and build quality? I'd like for readers to see how badly the Germans are now doing on that front. Sorry had a bad BMW experience I guess.... wishing I had bought British.

The reason I didn't buy a MB was due to build quality, that and a very poor dealer experience with my wife's car. That's why we both ended up with Audis.

18 September 2020

Key priorities are reset Jaguar in a better direction. The current strategy is flawed and financially disastrous. Get China going again to support the finding of the model strategy. Above all get Quality resolved which will take time but has not materially closed the gap versus the competition. Revise the overall Product strategy to what is affordable, you need funds to develop, launch, sustain and refresh. That cannot be funded on 16 model lines. Recognise that the role of Financial services is critical on this New World, it cannot be outsourced. You need to invest in Enablers not just Products. Above all Good Luck. 

18 September 2020

I'm happy to believe that Ralph Speth is a great guy, but he dropped the ball on brand management, product planning and quality. The new Defender looks like a great car but it's a Discovery really, not a Defender... and time will tell if the grand claims about quality prove to be true.

JLR has walked away from the old Defender's market, and I think they should have retired the badge.

18 September 2020

I dont agree with you.

Dropping lower priced Jaguars or increasing the price is a mistake, look at the success Mercedes, BMW and Audi have with their small cars, the 1 series, the A3 and the A Class. 

The largest segment for growth seems to be the small/medium SUV market - the school run mum, a market JLR should be leading, but it doesnt, Volvo gave us the XC40, Mercedes the GLA, BMW X1/X2, JLR gave us the ?. 

JLR have the Evoque, the Velar, the Discovery Sport, ansd shortly the Defender 90, they are all competing for the same customer, bin the Disco sport, give customers a Defender 70 or even a 50, make it look like it will climb every mountain, but it doesnt have to actually do it. 

Launch a Discovery 6 as soon as possible, the 5 is a disaster, use the Defender as the donor vehicle, just make it softer, less hard core, and more appealing to families, make the PHEV version a top priority - see if you can people to upgrade from the Mitsubishi Outlander - but make sure it retains 7 seats, Volvo have with the XC90 PHEV.

Make more of the XE and XF familes, provide an obvious link stying wise and or interior wise between the XE and the E-Pace, and the XF and the F-Pace, as if they are the same lineage, people assume an X3 is a 3 series SUV, the GLC is as C- Class SUV, they dont connect the Jaguar ones with their their relevant saloons. 

Where are the Coupes? Surely an XE or an XF or even an XJ coupe or even convertibles are not too much to ask, how much time, money and effort did Jaguar spend on the Project 8 XE, when they could have spent it on a coupe, or an estate, BMW have just announced to the world, that finally we are going to see an M3 estate - Jaguar, whats your reply?  

The F-Type isnt the halo car in the range, and never could be, it was flawed from the beginning, the wrong size, the wrong price, the boot on the soft top is a joke, the weight is shocking, and it didnt know if it was a 911 or a Boxster, they tried to make a new E-Type and replace the XK with one vehicle and failed at both.

Again, with the inherant strength of an aluminium platform already available, a lightweight Boxster rival and a big E/S class coupe rival should not have been too dificult to produce, forget the 911, thats not traditional Jaguar territory. 

Who remembers the beautiful XJC? Thats where Jaguar should be aiming, to rival the Conti Coupe, but with a lower price tag. Now is the ideal time, the new EV XJ is due to arrive shortly - they have spent lots of money developing it -  give us a truly beautiful 2 door version and open up a new niche, a big two door EV coupe, it would help pay back some of the costs, and there must be a market for one.  

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