He’d faced notably tough times in the past, once when required to go to the US and explain to Ford (then JLR’s owner) why a cut-down Ford Explorer wouldn’t do as the next Land Rover; later to explain to one of Europe’s foremost steel-makers (Tata himself) why future JLR vehicles should be made in aluminium...
I’m keen to understand more of how engineers and designers interact, given that in modern times it’s often the latter group who get the glory. Rogers is relaxed about this (“we know they need us”), stressing once again that it’s relationships within JLR’s flat management structure that matter most.
“I’ve known Gerry McGovern and Ian Callum forever. They’re very different characters and they keep their teams separate but we all get along fine. There’s a kind of passionate tension between us at times; it’s very healthy.”
The abrupt decline in diesel demand must be causing headaches for a company that makes its own engines, I suggest, but JLR must feel lucky it makes petrol engines too.
“We regret the perception of diesels that goes back 20 or 30 years,” Rogers says. “Today’s engines are incredibly clean. As for our manufacturing, luck doesn’t come into it. Our engines were always made as a family. The petrol and diesel versions come down the same line; we always talked about swinging between them. But I guess we always expected that swing to be global, not rapid changes in particular regions.”
My other concern is over the future of inventiveness. As JLR rapidly fills the ‘white spaces’ of the conventional model matrix, should we worry that the unpredictable circumstances that produced the Range Rover Evoque – a truly unexpected success – can’t occur again? Rogers has no such concerns: “We’ve done plenty of things since the Evoque that have been unexpected. I’d cite the Jaguar F-Pace, as the first Jaguar SUV. And the I-Pace. That was a complete surprise. I can absolutely promise you some very different and unexpected things for the future.”
Then he goes to a nearby shelf, selects a handsome model of Land Rover’s end-of-run 90 Classic, plants it on the table in front of me and says: “We need to do that again, don’t we?” It’s hard to disagree.
￼DIESEL ENGINE CONTROVERSY
“I don’t believe the publicity surrounding modern diesels is either accurate or fair. We’ve worked night and day to make clean diesels but unfortunately the perception of them goes back 20 or 30 years.”
“One way we make our cars different is by fitting bigger wheels. At an I-Pace launch in London, a group from Germany asked me why the car was fitted with 21in wheels, expecting a full-on technical explanation.I told them it was because we thought it looked cool.”
“There has never been a better time to be an engineer: we have to push the boundaries on both petrol and diesel technology, then make sure we have efficient 3cyl, 4cyl, 6cyl and V8 engines to offer. We also need mild and full hybrid solutions ready, and to join the battery electric revolution.”
DOING MORE IN-HOUSE
“Suppliers used to do a lot of our engineering, but we’ve brought some of it back into the company. That might sound counter- intuitive but we’ve done it so we understand it thoroughly, and can innovate more easily. We still need partners, just like we always did.”