Bollore’s plan: Solve Jaguar’s identity crisis

Industry

Thierry Bollore, the former Renault CEO who took the wheel at Jaguar Land Rover in September, last week ripped the covers off his new global strategy. If his plan is successful, JLR will shrink and grow at the same time — and build a stronger identity for troubled Jaguar.

The shrinkage will come from fewer nameplates and lower volume for Jaguar. JLR is abandoning its goal of 1 million global sales per year, a strategy put in place by Bollore’s predecessor, Ralf Speth, who stepped down last fall from the CEO role and now is nonexecutive vice chairman. The company also announced last week that it is shrinking its global salaried work force by 2,000 employees.

JLR’s growth will come in efficiencies gained from producing its vehicles on fewer architectures and deriving more revenue per vehicle by selling connected services and from subscriptions. “As a business we will be focused on value creation, on delivering quality and profits over volume,” Bolllore said as he laid out his “Reimagine” strategy aimed at steering JLR into the zero-emissions era.

JLR will build vehicles on three platforms, down from six today.

Here is the gist of Bollore’s plan:

  • Land Rover: Two platforms will underpin the Defender, Discovery and Range Rover family of models. Both platforms, MLA and EMA, will be able to accommodate hybrids or full-electric vehicles. Bollore said Land Rover will offer six battery-electric SUVs by 2026, more electric off-road vehicles than any other automaker.
  • Jaguar: This is the last gasp for Jaguar as we know it. There will be no new vehicles added to its lineup until 2025. That is when it will morph into an EV-only brand with perhaps just two or three nameplates, all riding on a Jaguar-exclusive platform. The plan, according to one JLR insider, is to take the brand far upmarket,perhaps just shy of Bentley and Aston Martin pricing with gorgeous vehicles that sell at full price or close to it.

Jaguar’s dedicated platform will help achieve a core goal of Bollore’s plan: to end the overlap between today’s Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles that share powertrains, architectures and technologies.

Said Bollore: “Built on separate architectures, Jaguar and Land Rover will have two clear, unique personalities, personalities rooted in their emotionally rich histories. Designed to give us two distinct choices of modern luxury for our customers.”

He also said the electric XJ sedan, which was set to debut next year, has been canceled. In addition, Automotive News has learned that the J-Pace three-row utility will not be built.

While Jaguar will have a zero-emissions lineup, Land Rover’s rugged off-road vehicles will continue to offer gasoline engines. By 2030, Land Rover aims to achieve 60 percent emissions-free vehicles. Bollore said JLR will phase out diesel engines by 2026. Bollore also said JLR will develop hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, part of a $3.4 billion yearly investment in future technologies.

In Bollore’s presentation, viewed by JLR employees, dealers and media, he said the company will take full advantage of the resources of Tata Group, the Indian multinational conglomerate that is JLR’s parent company.

“As a proud member of that Tata ecosystem, with its industrial strength and worldwide standing, we have something truly unique at Jaguar Land Rover, truly unique in the automotive industry, and now is the time to realize its potential,” Bollore said, citing Tata Group’s expertise in energy, data, communications and software.

“We have all the ingredients to define what modern luxury means in the world of tomorrow.”

Gerry McGovern, JLR’s chief creative officer, is perhaps the one person who will face even more pressure than Bollore in executing the new strategy. Bollore is banking on McGovern, who oversees design for both brands, to create a new design language for Jaguar that rekindles the passion generated by such classics as the E-Type sports car, the XJ6 sedan and the original 1960s S-Type, one of the first true compact sports sedans.

For the unflappable McGovern, such a tough assignment is likely just another day at the office. His revamped Land Rover Defender has received wide acclaim, and his next pressure-filled debut, the fifth-generation Range Rover coming next year, has been given a thumbs-up by dealers who have previewed it.

Bollore seems eager to tackle a long-standing issue at JLR: vehicle quality. He mentioned the word at least five times in his presentation.

Bollore, in answering a reporter’s question, said Jaguar would be moving away from SUVs. That has dealers wondering about Jaguar’s 2025 EV lineup. Since sedans, wagons and sports cars aren’t selling and Jaguar won’t have SUVs and crossovers, what’s left?

Jaguar Land Rover’s North American boss, Joe Eberhardt, last week held a conference call with dealers who are wondering — and worrying — about Jaguar’s future.

The battery-powered Jaguar I-Pace crossover has been a hit-or-miss vehicle. It does OK in regions such as California and Florida and a few East Coast cities but has virtually no demand at other many other stores.

The dealers received no specific details about Jaguar’s 2025 lineup.

Two Jaguar dealers who spoke with Automotive News on condition of anonymity came away with different interpretations of Bollore’s presentation. One believes the plan signals the end of the road for Jaguar — whose U.S. sales in pandemic-stricken 2020 were about a third of their peak of 61,204 in 2002 — while the other thinks the new direction will succeed.

Says JLR spokesman Stuart Schorr: “By the middle of the decade, Jaguar will have undergone a renaissance to emerge as a pure-electric luxury brand with a dramatically beautiful new portfolio of emotionally engaging designs and pioneering next-generation technologies.

“For Jaguar, we will now continue to work, including with our retailers, to fully prepare for that next generation of the brand, while we also go to market with the current new Jaguar lineup to 2025.”

Farrar Vaughan, president of Jaguar Land Rover Bluff City in Memphis, Tenn., is cautiously optimistic. “I think with Gerry McGovern being in charge of the Jaguar brand, it’s a really good thing, and we’ll see something really outside the box, something really dramatic. That’s what I hope.”

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