By on January 30, 2020

Ralf Speth, the longtime CEO of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), is stepping down. Parent company Tata Motors confirmed the move, saying Speth would continue serving as a non-executive vice chairman on the board holding company and advisor to JLR.

At 64, Speth is easing into retirement after having led the company for the last ten years. He’s scheduled to leave his post in September, having spent the brunt of his tenure expanding the company’s global footprint.

Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chairman of the Tata Sons holding company, said a search committee has been formed will work closely with him to identify a suitable successor in the coming months. But news of Speth’s prospective replacement followed closely after the retirement announcement. 

The Financial Times named Hanne Sørensen as the probable candidate. She joined Tata Motors in 2018, after working as the CEO of Maersk Tankers and Damco.

Speth joined BMW in 1980, spending 20 years with the automaker as an engineer before joining Ford Motor Company’s Premier Automotive Group back when it still owned Jaguar and Land Rover. The subsequent sale of those brands to Tata Motors led to his becoming CEO of JLR in February of 2010. Five years later, he was appointed as an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his services to the UK auto industry.

“I feel very honoured to have worked with so many dedicated and creative people, both inside and outside of Jaguar Land Rover. We have elevated Jaguar and Land Rover. I want to say thank you for all their support and commitment,” Septh (officially, Prof Sir Ralf Speth) said in a statement. “We offer our customers multi-award-winning products and will continue to surprise with the best pipeline of new, innovative products we have ever had … Personally, I am looking forward to new and exciting challenges.”

One of the largest will be maintaining the foundation already in place. JLR picked up a lot of steam throughout the 2010s. However, the auto market has since cooled off, and JLR has had to cope with losses in its home market of Europe and presumed growth markets like China. It recently announced £1.1 billion ($1.44 USD) in cost-saving measures on top of the £2.9 billion in cuts already made. This is all being done in an effort to improve its financial foundation and remain profitable — which it has for the last two quarters. Despite fewer car sales overall, pre-tax profits for the three months leading up to 2020 sat at £318 million. The same financial period for the previous year resulted in a loss of £273 million.

Other headaches involve costly electric vehicle development programs. Jaguar currently has the I-Pace, but it’s not a big seller. Meanwhile, the rest of the company has been slow to move on EVs — prompting a battery development partnership with BMW. Europe’s turn away from diesel also helped to tamp down sales. JLR’s retail volume dropped 6 percent in 2019, resulting in the global delivery of 557,706 vehicles.

[Image: Jaguar Land Rover]


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