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.