Q&A with Dr Ralf Speth, CEO Jaguar Land Rover
Jaguar Land Rover CEO speaks to Auto Express about the company's British DNA and its plans for growth..!!
1. How pleased were you to win the Best Coupe Golden Steering Wheel Award, voted for by Auto Express readers?
It’s this kind of readers’ award that’s exactly what we want. It’s unbelievable confirmation that we’re going in the right direction and we’ve got the right DNA and attributes and specification for the car. I only have to say thank you very much to your readers. This is the first Golden Steering Wheel Award in the history of Jaguar and Land Rover.
2. Where will JLR be in ten years' time? Will it still be a small company compared with its rivals?
We don’t want to go into a volume race. We want to find our own strategy – we have our own aims and customer target groups - customers who are looking for something special. That’s more important than an over-proportionate growth in volume – vehicles that are produced in millions are not premium vehicles any more.
3. The British DNA is important – how will you keep that as the company grows under Indian ownership? Our ownership is very important to us – without Mr Ratan Tata, Jaguar Land Rover wouldn’t exist any more.
It’s very important to be a British company – you know our designers Gerry [McGovern] and Ian [Callum], they’re doing exceptional work and together with this very creative engineering team we have a combination that’s unique in the market place and that differentiates us. It gives us a special feature. It’s important that we sustain that and we’re committed to Britain.
4. How close to production capacity are you in the UK?
We are running out of production capacity, we invested hundreds of millions in all of our plants and are close to capacity, increasing capacity for the production of the new Jaguar car.
5. What about foreign plants?
In China we’ve set up a production site and we have huge buildings there. We will see the very first vehicles rolling out of the factory probably early 2015. In South America we are talking to the government in Brazil and are on track to hopefully announce something else as soon as possible. We’ve signed a letter of intent [in Saudi Arabia] and are discussing going ahead and setting up production – it’s an opportunity to open up a market where nobody else is very far ahead.
6. Jaguar Land Rover operates in a fairly small sector of the car market – how much can it grow its model range?
You’re right that it’s not just only one dimension, it’s another dimension – we are very, very small and we can grow horizontally, but also vertically. But we have limits in growth and we have to define our own limits. We have to finance new products out of our free cash flow, despite our designers having so many ideas. If you talk to Ian or Gerry they have dozens of ideas, but I’m sorry that we cannot make everything! If you give me the money, I’ll make it!
7. How much further can Range Rover go upmarket?
We think it could go further in terms of price, what do you think? I can only echo your words – it’s not a question of just price, but of what we hand over. If we hand over even more quality, attributes and specification to the customer that they get even better wellbeing and comfort, then I guess Land Rover is capable of going much further. Land Rover is the ultimate SUV brand with the highest capability off road and the best capability on road. Range Rover defined the luxury SUV and it can redefine it bringing it up even further.
8. When’s JLR going to catch up on in-car technology?
We hired Dr Wolfgang Ziebart who is running our development and Dr Wolfgang Epple who’s running our research teams. Dr Ziebart is a specialist in the electronic area, very experienced as CEO if Infenion Technologies, then with Continental and BMW so we have exactly the right guys to address these kinds of issues. We have set up a joint venture with Intel and a research base in Oregon that will deliver even more in connectivity – the creative potential for this kind of technology is in the US and we’ll be sitting in the middle of this kind of environment, not by accident.
9. Will Jaguar go back into motorsport?
Whenever you want to go racing, you have to have a certain ambition – that ambition must be to win. Even if you come second, you’ve lost the game. Therefore we first have to develop a very solid product programme, especially if you want to go racing. You have to have big pockets. Especially in Formula One. They are throwing millions out of the window every weekend – I’m sorry I don’t have the money to do that. If you ask me as an engineer, come on, I’d like to do it and develop this kind of car, but as well as being an engineer I also have to be a business man and if you want to combine it, then it’s a question of priorities.
10. The F-Type Coupe would lend itself to a great one-make racing series, wouldn’t it?
Yes, maybe there is one or another opportunity, the F-Type does have the most fantastic roadholding, but at the end of the day we have to do one thing after the other and can’t do everything.
11. Will JLR be able to hit the 95g/km emissions target by 2020?
We are on track to achieve our targets for our range of products in the US and Europe, that means we have to reduce our overall fuel consumption by 45% and we will do it, with a mixture of hybridisation. We are just launching diesel hybrids and will increase this type of product across our portfolio. Hydrogen is an interesting approach, but you have to get green hydrogen and that’s a question of where we get it from and do we have the infrastructure? From an infrastructure point of view hydrogen would be cheaper than full electrification. So it’s an interesting concept, but at the moment whenever you discuss hydrogen, it’s always in the next five years – we will not be in that market yet.
12. There’s a big emphasis within JLR on quality and reliability, how can the image of your brands be improved?
Just look at that picture [of the F-Type Coupe], that solves the problem of the age profile. We will never stop improving, we have to be relentless to improve quality and have that spirit throughout the company.
13. Will Jaguar build a smaller, more accessible sports car than the F-Type?
Nobody should ever say never, but we have to set our priorities then step-by-step open up the drawers to bring one or another product alive so let’s see what the future can bring… Q&A with Dr Ralf Speth, CEO Jaguar Land Rover | Auto Express