Speaking on the eve of the Los Angeles auto show, Speth said the firm “needed certain growth, but not utmost growth”, saying the firm was a “boutique” for “connoisseurs who want something different” rather than “high street”.
“We won’t sell millions, or be high street,” he said about JLR, which has trebled its annual car sales to almost half a million since Tata took over the company in 2008.
Speth pointed out that BMW sold more in the last quarter than JLR will in the whole of 2015, but that the British-based company “still had to compete on a global basis”.
“BMW is like Park Lane or Mayfair on Monopoly,” he told Autocar, “they can have what they want. We’re the boutique: we can have cool vehicles with good designs that are good to drive and have good options.”
That quote was in reference to a question on just how big JLR could grow in terms of new models. On this subject, he added: “There are so many opportunities to expand the product portfolio, but we can’t do it all. We have to prioritise.”
Speth also revealed the firm “can meet CO2 targets with the current product portfolio”. As such, JLR does not have to expand its product line-up with smaller models to meet CO2 targets, although growth into smaller segments could still happen should the models be considered suitable for the individual brands, and be profitable.
Speth said JLR’s workforce would go beyond 40,000 people this year or next, but beyond that the company was struggling to find more people with the right skills to facilitate further growth, a problem he said was one for the UK as a whole.
The company is planning models up to around 2022/23, Speth said, but just how big a role electric vehicles will play is still being decided. Jaguar is known to be working on an electric car and the recent Evoque E project revealed JLR’s thinking around EVs.
But Speth said issues regarding weight, infrastructure, battery reliability, and battery end-of-life were still to be sorted, while a breakthrough on battery technology was anywhere between three and 10 years away, “depending on who you believe”.
That’s before cost implications to the customer are factored in. “Is the customer prepared to pay for this technology?” he said. “Give me enough money and I can fly to the moon…”
Speth also revealed that he was frustrated the Jaguar C-X75 supercar never made production, saying that it never did so because the hybrid technology intended to power it was still in its infancy and not ready for production.