A few weeks ago, Jaguar Land Rover chief executive Ralf Speth appointed his former boss, Wolfgang Ziebart, 63, as engineering director, rekindling a relationship that began more than two decades earlier in Munich.
Ziebart was BMW’s head of engineering in the 1980s, an era acknowledged as model-rich and full of creativity.
Both Ziebart and Speth subsequently moved to the UK as part of BMW’s ‘Rover turnaround team’, an enterprise that ultimately failed. Here, Ziebart explains what brought him back to the UK.
What made you decide to give the UK another chance?
“It’s mainly because I’m excited about creating great cars. JLR nowadays is an engineering-driven company that reminds me of BMW in the 1980s. You don’t have to wait for monthly committee meetings to get things done. You can reach the people you need to talk to easily, and then make quick decisions.”
You ran one of the best BMW 3-series teams ever. Can the new Jaguar hit those standards?
“Our aim must be to blow the opposition away. Jaguar’s 3-series rival will be the only car in the class with all-aluminium technology, which makes it very special. Combine that with our new electronics and our innovative engine range, developed in-house, and you have huge potential. There is a lot to do, but this can be a great car.”
What is the priority?
“I can think of three. First, we have to take the lead in the aspects of design that move fastest: driver assistance, telematics, fuel and weight saving, stuff like that. Next, we have to refine the way we do our cars, making sure, for instance, that we have one electrical system, not many different systems. Third, we have to organise our product development into specialist teams so we don’t finish up with five different tailgate systems across the company instead of one. We need a tailgate team. Such things bring big rewards.”