News that Jaguar Land Rover made £275m profit in the last quarter of 2010 is unalloyed good news. But the suggestion that some analysts think JLR could bank a £1bn profit for 2010-11 is extraordinary.
As recently as 2009, as the global recession raged, JLR approached the then-Labour government for a £500m loan to tide the company over. The negotiations blew up in public, with allegations that the government wanted a degree of strategic control over the Midlands car maker.
Since then, JLR’s turnaround has been remarkable. It has recruited a large number of new staff at its Halewood plant ahead of the Range Rover Evoque going on sale this summer and another 1000 or so engineers are being recruited to work on new projects including Jaguar’s family of compact cars and the long-promised small roadster.
However, the British car industry has been here before. In the past it has had an uncanny knack of replacing successful models by a succession of duffers. For 40 years, British car makers have been hobbled by the inability to perform consistently over many years and many generations of models.
The list of models that were seen as turning points for their respective makers, but which actually crashed and burned in the showroom, is long and depressing. The Austin Maxi, Maestro and Metro. The Rover 600 and 75. The Jaguar X-Type.