By on May 3, 2019

Image: JLR

Last week, we examined the precarious situation impacting the way Jaguar Land Rover does business. If you want the abridged version, JLR isn’t sure what to do about Brexit, overestimated the Chinese market, and is concerned with tightening emission rules in Europe. The company’s now mulling the layoff of a sizable portion of its workforce to stem financial losses while parent company Tata considers what life might be like if it sold off its British properties.

Refreshingly, JLR isn’t secretive about its problems and doesn’t attempt to spin them into something positive. It knows it’s confronting real problems. It wants us to know that, too. 

Jaguar Land Rover CEO Ralf Speth explained the corporate situation in an interview with Automotive News’ decidedly German sister publication Automobilwoche this week, providing a clearer picture of what the automaker intends to do about the complex situation it finds itself in.

“The entire auto industry is on the brink of huge changes. Whether they are regulatory, economic, geopolitical or technological, they all have to be funded. We have been working on this for a while. Our current improvement program, which focuses on profitability and cash, has been underway since 2018,” Speth explained. “We are reducing investments and expenditures, eliminating complexity and tightening processes in many areas. We are getting down to business anywhere we can improve efficiency in the short term. We are also carrying out a separate program for systemic and strategic improvements in efficiency.”

Image: JLR

That, of course, includes staffing reductions estimated to impact around 10 percent of JLR’s workforce. Speth said this is the hardest part of the restructuring process, noting that the company has done all it can to spread out and soften the blow.

“In 2018-19, 2,500 temporary workers were separated from the company, and at the start of the year, we launched a voluntary settlement program, which 2,500 employees have accepted,” he said. “The measures were completed by the end of March so we could begin the new fiscal year on April 1 with a leaner organization.”

However, when asked about the biggest problems JLR faces, his answers had less to do with governmental interference/confusion and worse global demand than anticipated.

“First of all, we are investing massively in autonomous driving, networking and shared mobility,” said Speth. “Secondly, we are renewing and expanding our product portfolio. Thirdly, we are optimizing all our internal combustion engines so we can continue to offer our customers outstanding products. Given the current challenges, that’s not easy. We would have liked to be in a different place at this point.”

Despite the push into new tech, JLR will continue offering a diverse array of powertrains — including mild-hybrids, plug-ins, and traditional internal-combustion units. “According to industry forecasters, a global share of 20 percent to 30 percent for electrified vehicles is expected by 2025,” Speth clarified. “When you turn this around, it means that 70 percent to 80 percent of all vehicles around the world will have conventional engines.”

2019 Jaguar I-Pace

At present, the company sees electric vehicles as too costly to bank on until battery prices come down and charging infrastructures improve to a point where EVs become easier to own. JLR will continue to offer electrified models like the Jaguar I-Pace, but EVs won’t be the company’s primary focus.

“When it comes to electric vehicles, the question isn’t how many cars I can build but rather how many batteries I can buy,” he explained. “The demand for batteries is so great that there will be a limited ability to deliver them over the next few years. And, unlike some others, I expect continually rising battery prices — at least for the next two to three years.”

Speth also noted that, while he’s excited about Land Rover’s returning Defender and anticipates strong demand, he’s disappointed in the model’s launch preparations. Still slated to arrive in 2020, the CEO admitted the boxy SUV would be on sale now under more idyllic circumstances.

“But a new Defender has to be geared to its community of fans,” he said. “It is better to take a hiatus so the new product has the right substance, specifications and characteristics.”

[Images: JLR]

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26 Comments on “CEO of Embattled Jaguar Land Rover Explains the Road Ahead...”


  • avatar
    R Henry

    ““First of all, we are investing massively in autonomous driving, networking and shared mobility,”

    Cut that!

    Then, get to work figuring out who you want to be. Do you want to be a builder of unique compelling cars, or do you want to chase the Germans into the autonomous vehicle hole?

    If you can’t survive today, tomorrow is meaningless!

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      You beat me to it. That mobility crap should be last of all, not first.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Right. Land Rover survives on its unique off-roading technology, decades of panache and credibility, and the fact that SUVs are hot. Jaguar, meanwhile, has been about as unsuccessful as Cadillac at chasing the Germans, and JLR doesn’t have the money to do that in earnest, anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        FWIW, Land Rover has had 9 straight years of growth in the US market, which I hadn’t realized.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        The problem with “chasing the Germans” is people chase what the Germans were 20 years ago rather than what they are and are positioning themselves to be. It’s infuriating to watch. Now both Cadillac and Jaguar are making last ditch efforts to go electric…

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Can throw Alfa in the mix; all 3 having compromised interior packaging for performance and handling (also not leaving much $$ for interior quality).

        One can still have dynamic vehicles (sure, may miss out on that nth degree of “tossability”) while still offering good interior space.

        JdN set to fix Cadillac’s missteps (make that Mark Reuss’) by reconfiguring its sedan lineup and making them essentially LWB to begin with.

        So Cadillac goes from the tightest interior in the compact segment w/ the ATS to just about the largest w/ the CT5; same goes for the CT6 which will be the midsize offering.

        Cadillac has fixed one issue, but interior quality/design is still something they have to work on (based on the CT5’s interior).

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      RH..exactly what I was thinking as I read this.
      Just be what you can be and be great at it.
      No time to be chasing other’s dreams and trying to compete whyen you can join in later if the market is there.

      The criticism of Ford not long ago for cutting sedans looks dumber every day.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      “Our current improvement program, which focuses on profitability and cash, has been underway since 2018…”

      While all companies need to generate profit, perhaps Tata JLR should focus on an “improvement program” that is focused on building a vehicle that can go more than 10,000 miles without having something (or many somethings) break, warranting several visits to the dealership.

  • avatar

    Jaguars start looking more and more like Lincoln knock-offs. What is next, Jaguar Navigator?

    On the other note European oil burners are reluctantly working on EVs while Tesla is 100% dedicated to BEVs. Unless Europeans stop developing ICE vehicles and 100% focus on EVs I do not see how technologically they can compete with Tesla and even Chinese.

  • avatar

    “We are reducing investments and expenditures, eliminating complexity and tightening processes in many areas. We are getting down to business anywhere we can improve efficiency in the short term. We are also carrying out a separate program for systemic and strategic improvements in efficiency.”

    And before this?
    This should be the goal at all times. You wouldn’t have workers you know need to let go because you wouldn’t have hired them in the first place.

    Nice to see our Indian Masters of the Universe just as clueless on what to do with these 2 basket cases as everyone else was.

    There was only 1 stretch in the early 80s where the Jag was considered successful and many believe it was done by exchange rates in the US.

    Not a lot different with Rover except for the extra ownership of BMW thrown in there.

  • avatar
    CaddyDaddy

    Interesting to read JLR’s corporate mantra. All fluff and promotion that are about some utopian future of tech and a Jetson style world. Not one word about their true problem, they build garbage. Sure you can lease vehicles to status chasers here and there, but no one really returns to buy a JLR a second time. Even under warranty, going to the dealership and waiting for a flatbed gets old.

    If JLR is Tata’s Toy, so be it. But as a viable manufacturer, hogwash. Note, Toyota’s leadership does not participate in the chicanery, they talk quality and meeting consumer Needs, that is why they are number one.

  • avatar
    James2

    Jaguar should get back to the business of building… wait for it… Jaguars, not BMW knockoffs. The XE is a perfect example of a not-a-Jaguar, with its anonymous Universal European Car styling inside and out.

    I don’t mean that they should do another X-Type, but at least the styling should be an homage (however slight) to their past. And there should be plenty of wood and leather inside, like a British luxury car should have.

  • avatar
    pbx

    “Still slated to arrive in 2020, the CEO admitted the boxy SUV would be on sale now under more idyllic circumstances.”

    So move the assembly to somewhere more peaceful or picturesque.

  • avatar
    Tstag

    Sperh knows what he’s doing. So JLR have had 2 bum years out of a number of fantastic ones post Ford. The New Defender will get them back on Track and the electric XJ will reset things for Jaguar. There are plenty of other companies that have more to worry about in the Auto industry…

  • avatar

    I recall the hilarious scene from “Mad Man” where that English dude tries to commit suicide in his Jaguar coupe and cannot do that because engine does not start. That tells you all you need to know about Jaguar and why former colonies are so frustrated with owning it.

  • avatar
    Garrett

    The only thing that appeals to me about Jaguars is the exhaust note on the supercharged V6 engines at the S trim level.

    That sound. Glorious. Go listen on YouTube. I’ll wait.

    Okay, now that you’re back, doesn’t that sound deserve something better looking?

    Stop trying to be German, stop trying to be “European”. Be English, and unapologetically so. I want the strains of the song “Jerusalem” echoing through my head every time I see a Jaguar…perhaps even parked in my driveway.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    >>At present, the company sees electric vehicles as too costly to bank on until battery prices come down and charging infrastructures improve to a point where EVs become easier to own.<

    Edison said the same thing 100+ years ago. I guess his prediction will come true some century

    >“According to industry forecasters, a global share of 20 percent to 30 percent for electrified vehicles is expected by 2025,”<<

    what a laugh riot that is – unless govs force people to take them or make than free or tax the ICE out of existence.

    and if BEV's grow 20-30 fold in such a short time, rare earth sourced batteries will go up or down in price? which means BEVs will not reach even 10% in five years, probably not 5% – unless there is a revolution in battery tech just around the corner – (which is always the case according to the carnival barkers).

    Tesla has succeeded (sort of) because it's a luxury car subsidized by the taxpayers for the wealthy – when the subsidies and novelty wear off, Tesla better have a plan

    the smart (sic) companies will concentrate on superior cars and trucks and let high tech companies deal w/ autonomous and batteries – those companies will license the best tech anyway

  • avatar
    teddyc73

    “embattled”. You internet writers love that word.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I think the XE is a handsome car, and now with it’s interior refresh it’s semi-competitive aside from space limitations. However, there’s absolutely no sizzle . Jaguar needs to bank on it’s history of great driving cars. Re-introduce a manual trans , sports package model preferably with the 6cyl motor, strip it down so it’s affordable like g70
    The XF though looks dated ,probably because every Kia sedan copied it’s styling.
    Land Rover really doesn’t need anything but better reliability marks. They will still sell on style alone . I stare at a Velar across the street at a law office window much of the day. I get it.


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