Together, these activities would build what, JLR was confident, could be a very profitable division.
“Heritage had some great objectives when I arrived,” says Hannig, “and a huge amount of potential. But what we didn’t have was an action plan, and that’s what I was hired to create.
"Since joining the company, I’ve learned to view the classic car market in an entirely new way.” The 37-year-old Hannig never imagined that he would become part of a British old car business. It just sort of happened.
Building a Jaguar E-Type
German by birth, he was a British car enthusiast (a credential underscored by his ownership of a Daimler 2.5-litre V8 saloon), but he was also a successful young mechanical engineer working for a company making forklift trucks, first in Germany, then China and then the US.
When the recession began to bite at everything except classic car prices, he and his father-in-law decided to put money into a Jaguar E-Type, which they’d restore.
“I was pretty sure it would make us money,” Hannig says. “Then when I arrived in China, where labour is cheaper, I reckoned we could do even better. And better still if we simply reverse engineered the E-Type and made some cars from new. I wrote to the Special Ops chief, John Edwards, with the idea and he suggested I turn it into a proper plan, which I did.
"After taking some time to consider, John sent a ‘thanks but no thanks’ reply, which I presumed was the end of any association. Soon after, my company had moved me to America and I heard from Edwards again, asking if I’d be interested in the job of Heritage director. It was the dream job, of course, although it meant moving again.
I flew over for an interview with John Edwards, then with [JLR chief executive officer] Ralf Speth, answered a million questionsand discovered they were dead serious about the idea. It would be a valuable aid to marketing, they believed, as well as a profit centre in its own right. That sounded good, so I went back to the US to talk my wife into moving again.”
Classic car buyers
Hannig has studied the classic car market thoroughly and slices it in a completely new way. There are three major user groups today, he believes. Most prominent still is the familiar white male restorer, for whom the company will in future cater better by providing top-quality parts made from original tools and plans.
But there are two more groups: those who want a viable classic as alternative transport to a new car – something that looks cool and makes them feel special but need not be immaculate – and people who want a near-perfect car, in restored condition, that drives like a modern. These owners aren’t concerned with originality.
They might want an E-Type with modern brakes, a better gearbox, power steering or air conditioning. JLR Classic will cater for these people, says Hannig, even though such a move a few years ago would have created an outcry among purists. “We won’t make judgements about people’s dreams,” he says.
Suitable cars for these disparate udders are plentiful. Hannig believes that if you count every healthy Jaguar and Land Rover – including even early Freelanders and X-Type saloons – there are 1.5 million cars in the pool, and it will be two million by 2020, although they divide into very different strata of value and desirability.