Wednesday, December 7, 2022

MY LUXE LIFE - CRUISING COTÊ D'AZUR BY JAGUAR by John Crawford

The chartered Dassault-Falcon 30 took of from RAF Northolt, jetting through a clear blue sky toward our destination, Aeroport de Nice. On board one of my best mates from the Jaguar PR team at Browns Lane plus six Pommy motoring scribes, and my media contingent from the USA, made up of six of my best friends.



Just short of two hours we pull up at the Nice executive jetport, and the only downside of this, so far, private jet journey is the coach ride to the hotel. But, what a hotel – one of the most famous of the original 5-stars in the exclusive enclave of Juan-Les-Pins. Designed in 1931 for businessman Alexandre Barache by renowned French architect Georges Diganski, the Hotel Juana has hosted the Aga Khan, Winston Churchill and artist Marc Chagall among a cadre of famous personalities.


The Juana won another distinguished honour after its restaurant became a reference for gastronomy when it was the first of the Cote d’Azur hotels to be awarded two stars in the 1984 Guide Michelin, thanks to a young Alain Ducasse who was then just 28.

 

The following morning we are greeted by the Jaguar team after a delightful petit dejeuner on the terrace, plus a selection of Jaguar XJ-S convertibles arrayed on Avenue Georges Gallice.

 

Ahead is a 300km round trip taking in the regional city of Draguignan, and the fabulous, fortified hilltop town of Fayence – which is the coffee stop.


The test route is typically a David Boole-designed driving event, taking in autoroute, gentle climbs, twisty, mountainous sections heading up to Fayence, then some long and testing curves back from the hills toward Juan-le-Pins.



David and I first met in 1979, and enjoyed a close friendship until his untimely death at 48 in 1996.


He was the visionary Director of Public Relations who skilfully guided Jaguar through two tumultuous eras, both as part of British Leyland and then as in independent company.

 

David had a great vision for Jaguar media events and managed to always choose not just great driving routes, but great (and famous) hotels, inspired presentations whilst always ensuring a low-key presence of Jaguar’s senior executives led by the Chairman John Egan.


The events always delivered essential technical details, but were underscored by outstanding journalism validating Jaguar’s rightful place in the luxury car spectrum.


The hills above the Mediterranean coastline are known as Les Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, and the contours seem ideally sculpted for Jaguar driving, especially the impressive torque from the XJ-S’s V12 engine. Returning to the Juana we enjoyed a typical five-star lunch, followed in the evening before dinner by a cute little tourist train ride through the environs surrounding the enclave.


 Juan-les-Pins is wall-to-wall money with luxury villas often occupying two building lots allowing for large homes set in bountiful, semi-tropical gardens.



What an ideal setting to welcome Jaguar’s latest iteration of the XJ-S, despite early criticism that its styling was not redolent of its predecessor, the E-type.


However, the XJ-S went on to be a huge commercial success for Jaguar, after the V12 coupe and convertible was followed by a new inline six version, known as the AJ6.

As our time at the Juana came to an end, it was back to earth momentarily as we motored off to Nice Airport for the return flight to London.



Some of us in XJ-S convertibles, others on a bloody coach, devoid of character, but including the French driver who serenaded us with pitifully-sad Edith Piaf hits.

The Luxe Life may only last a few days, but it’s been a great element of my career associated with legendary brands like Jaguar and Bentley.

 

JOHN CRAWFORD



Monday, December 5, 2022

JAGUAR AND FORD - THE REAL STORY by John Crawford

I admit to being alarmed, concerned and very upset by the possibility that the Jaguar marque could disappear due to volatile changes in its markets, and the disappointment over yet another management shooting for volume, rather than investing in ensuring Jaguar survives as a boutique brand.

 

My concerns were informed by a number of sources familiar with Jaguar (pre-Ford and post-Ford) and because of my love for the brand, I fell into the trap of embellishing some inaccurate observations, and lack of detailed information, with my own emotive descriptions. However, my posts did manage to elicit extensive, accurate detail and data from unexpected sources.

 

So, I must humbly recant on any suggestion that Ford was not a saviour, as I wrote in the latest Post. I simply was not in a position to be aware of the significant and extensive ‘rescue effort’ Ford created for its 1989 acquisition of one of the world’s most famous brands.

 

That effort included many billions of dollars in new investment and bringing in a highly experienced team of executives both in the UK and in Dearborn – to guide the rescue task.

 

So, I will start with a statement I made early on that Ford’s acquisition could be viewed as a ‘hostile takeover’.

 

Hostile takeover? Jaguar was just a few months away from bankruptcy! That is why the British government gave up support of the Golden Share? It saw what was happening through its own sources.

 

Jaguar Cars North America alone lost 360 million dollars in the first year of Ford’s ownership, and those losses ran on for years as it invested in a completely new production line, new suppliers, and a model range that didn’t even exist in Jaguar’s planning when Ford bought the company. 

 

John Egan muses at the end of his book whether they might have muddled on without Ford, but the company needed several billion dollars invested in it to staunch the outbound cash flow and make it into a competitive car company.


John Egan (centre) and the Jaguar Board 1982

As my sources point out - where would Jaguar have got this money? Nobody, not even a financing genius, could have put together a satisfactory Return-On-Investment (ROI) financing framework. As it transpired Jaguar did not pay back a single dime for at least ten years, and that assumes the then-current management had the ability to implement the much-needed improvements. Jaguar’s experience under ex-Ford of Britain Chairman Bill Hayden raises serious questions about that ability.

 

Using the same production line and same suppliers, Bill Hayden, in eighteen months brought the XJ40 quality (on the three-year J.D. Power measurement) from the worst car sold in the US (the Yugo was the benchmark) to the mid-level, and the quality ratings continued improving from there.


Bill Hayden did change the Engineering Director and, for all practical purposes, ran the production line himself. Mike Beasley (Jaguar's existing Manufacturing Director, right) deserves enormous credit, because he flourished under Bill Hayden’s management.

 

According to my sources, some with a much more intimate knowledge of the investment by Ford, tell me I have grossly underestimated the depth of the XJ40 issues.



Within three months of the launch the quality team had identified almost 50 major problems for which there was no fix available. To inform this situation I provide the following details.


Jaguar Cars in Coventry had to make a ‘kit’ and bring in all the cars sold in the first year, to the dealers, to solve some of these issues. In the USA the number of tows represented 75% of the total vehicles sold because of a battery problem.


Customer complaints quintupled over the previous model and over 75% of the potential luxury market said they would not consider buying a Jaguar due to its quality issues. This is only a glimpse of the incredibly poor experience Jaguar customers and dealers had with XJ40. It was rolling disaster except it didn’t roll a lot of the time. It ruined some of Jaguar’s finest dealers.

 

The most damaging result was a dramatic drop in residual values that took seven long years to resolve, and hundreds of millions of dollars to support the recovery of Jaguar sales. At one point Jaguar (Ford) had to ‘subvene’  (subsidize) sales at the rate of ten thousand dollars a car, to reach the same lease rate as its competitors. Ford supported Jaguar all the way.

 

Ford supported Jaguar many other significant ways. 

 

The production line in Coventry was razed to the ground and a state of the art production line put in its place (left). One piece of press equipment alone cost over $350 million.



Pre-production cars were built on a separate line (right) modelled after the larger one, to sort out pre-production problems and train the production line workers.

 

The Ford team in Detroit were convinced that Jaguar should make a small, FWD sedan, early in the 90’s, but Jaguar totally disagreed. 


The senior Ford executive who argued that case, ensured that when final permission to go ahead was requested of COO Alex Trotman, Jaguar’s most senior executive in the USA was included in the meeting, and given the opportunity to state the Jaguar position. The project was cancelled, but Ford’s senior executives continued to support Jaguar. 

 

The senior Ford Director responsible for Jaguar in the USA provided a budget for American Jaguar dealer development from the Ford NA budget.

 

The grownups at Ford green lighted a new sports car designed by the Ford team in Detroit. The Coventry design team and the Board objected, and Ford reversed the decision and approved the XK8


Jaguar concept by Ford Design (top), Jaguar XK-8 designed by Geoff Lawson


Ford had a V8 it wanted Jaguar to use because of the potential cost savings, but accepted Jaguar’s argument that Jaguar needed a more refined powerplant, with features redolent of the famous smoothness exclusive to past Jaguar powertrains. 

Ford supplied the financing and resources to develop the AJV8 from scratch.

Edsel Ford at Ford Credit also provided remarkable support with the Jaguar leasing program, even to the point of setting up a separate finance company, so that the word FORD did not appear on the documents.


I’m afraid that although I took up the bat, I could not have been as intimately associated with these specific facts because the discussions about such important decisions were well above my pay grade.

 

My job at Jaguar Cars North America was to take remnants of the sparse fabric of good news to weave positive, optimistic and worthy stories of the rebuilding and re-engineering leading ultimately the renaissance of the famous Jaguar brand.

 

I joined Jaguar Cars North America in early 1991, and that year sales were a tragically-low 9,376 cars, but three years later, with Ford’s assistance, and due to very determined efforts by everyone on the Jaguar ‘Rescue Team’ (in Dearborn, Mahwah and Coventry) the 1994 sales number was 15,195.


Ford HQ Dearborn(top), Jaguar, Mahwah, New Jersey (left) and Coventry HQ.


At that point my US working visa had expired and I returned to Australia feeling somewhat satisfied Jaguar’s survival had been assured.

 

Perhaps this Post will help the reader understand that when the ‘bad news’ began filtering out of Jaguar at Gaydon, and the US/UK financial media, my system went into ‘fight or flight’. However, my writing and my opinions were over-zealous, and the picture I created needed some serious touch-ups with facts.

 

Simply, there would not have been a Jaguar company for Tata Group to acquire without Ford’s munificence and support.



JOHN CRAWFORD

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

NEW SUBSCRIPTIONS? - AND I DON'T MEAN PLAYBOY MAGAZINE by John Crawford


DID YOU WANT WHEELS WITH YOUR CAR, SIR? THE ‘WHEELS’ SUBSCRIPTION COSTS EXTRA!


Mercedes-Benz has become the latest company to join a trend that many drivers despise:

Charging people to unlock features in vehicles they have ordered.

 

The company is offering an "Acceleration Increase" subscription service that will—for $1,200 a year—allow some of its vehicles to accelerate from 0 to 60mph one second faster, the BBC reports.

 

The company says drivers of electric Mercedes-EQ vehicles who sign up for the program will have the motor's output boosted, reports Gizmodo. "Electronically increasing the motor’s output also increases the torque significantly," giving you "acceleration power you can feel," Mercedes says on its website.



Car manufacturers have turned to updates and subscriptions as a way to keep money coming in as sales of new cars decline—but while the strategy makes sense with options like premium navigation features, Mercedes' acceleration subscription suggests it "intentionally limited performance to later sell as an optional extra," Jess Weatherbed writes at the Verge.

 

Weatherbed calls it part of a "loathsome" trend. Jack McKeown, president of the Association of Scottish Motoring Writers, tells the BBC that the Mercedes plan is "unsurprising, but dispiriting" and he hopes there's a consumer backlash against this kind of subscription.


Mercedes isn't the first automaker to offer a controversial subscription service:


In July, BMW offered drivers in countries including the UK and South Korea the option of turning on heated seats and/or steering wheels for around $30 a month for both. How about a charge for using Apple CarPlay at $450 pa?


In December last year, Toyota said the remote start function was being removed from key fobs and replaced with an $8-per-month subscription option, CNET reports. 

 


THIS REPORT IS SOURCED FROM NEWS AGGREGATOR ‘NEWSER’

Sunday, November 27, 2022

WHY JAGUAR'S DAYS ARE NUMBERED by John Crawford

If, as I fear, Jaguar really has been shown to a table in the ‘Last Chance Saloon’ then it’s worthwhile taking you back in time, to a number of instances where I think the final proof-reading of Jaguar’s death warrant was ready for the printers.

 

It’s 1999, and Ford has owned Jaguar for ten years. Jaguar was in deep crap when Ford took over, and some very experienced and skilled Ford executives put their heart and soul into ‘saving’ Jaguar – most notably Bill Hayden, Nick Scheele and Jim Padilla.



Their combined efforts revitalised Jaguar bringing about massive quality improvements, and refining the many processes needed to create, design and make great cars.


So, back to the 1989 acquisition of Jaguar by Ford. It could well be described as hostile takeover, because Ford CEO Alex Trotman pursued Jaguar ruthlessly, even (so it's reported around Westminster) convincing the Secretary of State for Trade & Industry, the highly conservative Nicholas Ridley, to end Jaguar's 'Golden Share' protection from takeover.


Once that happened Jaguar's fate was sealed. It would be owned by Ford - like it or not.

 

A whole series of acquisitions followed, starting in 1991. Ford took full control over Aston Martin (which was also in deep crap), then in 1999 Ford pulled Lincoln out of the Ford North America division, and along with Land Rover (which it had bought from BMW in 2000), plus Volvo (which it had acquired in early 1999) and then Jaguar, leading to Ford creating the PREMIER AUTOMOTIVE GROUP (PAG) –  rolling a truly upmarket collection of impressive brands into one high end division.



Although, as I said, some key Ford executives saw Jaguar reborn as a proper car company there had been some behind-the-scenes moves which did not help Jaguar, and I will discuss those later.

 

So how did Jaguar find itself a victim of Ford - its saviour? A short timeline will be helpful.

In 1984 John Egan led a successful IPO freeing Jaguar from the interference and indifference shown by BL.


In 1985, newly-privatised, it opened a new Engineering Centre in Whitley, near its Browns Lane HQ.


The most important post-Lyons Jaguar, the XJ40 was launched in 1986, but the rapid increase in production and sales revealed quality problems which caused a lot of anger from Jaguar's powerful US dealers, and this, together with a slow down in demand savaged Jaguar's previously healthy revenue flows. By 1988-1989 these issues were concerning Egan and his Board. 

Jaguar was then, in 1989, again in a weakened state, due to the aforementioned drop in demand, quality problems, and foreign exchange losses. That's when Ford swooped.

 

Reading John Egan's book 'Saving Jaguar' reveals that whilst (initially) the efforts of Hayden, Scheele and Padilla boosted quality and sales, Ford's management was not really the saviour of Coventry's biggest employer.


The nails for Jaguar’s coffin were already being forged after Ford’s decision to hire ex-BMW executive Wolfgang Reitzle to run PAG.


Reitzle had been fired by BMW AG’s Board in 1989, and Ford’s COO Jac Nasser figured he would be just the guy to run the new upmarket division. I seriously believe that there are no standard door frames which would allow Reitzle to get his giant ego through.

He should be admired for the string of successful BMWs he was responsible for as the number two executive in Munich, but he really does have a huge opinion of his own worth.


Ford got a taste of that on Day One, when he entered the PAG office building in Berkeley Square in London, and demanded the ceiling lights in the foyer be replaced by a chandelier (which ended up costing almost £1 million to buy and install)!


Incidentally, Reitzle spent a total of £5 million on the London offices, which Ford had to spend again to restore the rented premises back to their original state!

 

Reitzle’s PAG marriage lasted just three years, ending in 2002, but in that time Reitzle revealed just how little he thought of British managers, because he terminated many of Jaguar's ‘old hands’ who knew the Jaguar company and the product lines backwards. Most of the key jobs went to Land Rover or Range Rover managers – who were mostly all ex-Rover Group. Many of whom were failed German managers from the period when Land Rover was owned by BMW.

 

Those Land Rover managers soon made short work of getting rid of the few remaining Jaguar brand people.


After Reitzle departed Berkeley Square, a Ford 'career ladder-climber' called Mark Fields headed PAG, and during his tenure he basically ignored Jaguar. Fields was ONLY interested in anything that could help him become Ford CEO. Jaguar suffered almost complete isolation from responsible and investment-led management.


When ex-Boeing chief, Alan Mulally, was hired as Ford's CEO and President in 2006 he began dismantling PAG and selling off all the luxury marques. 


This decision by Mulally ultimately helped Jaguar recover and provided yet another chance of 'survival'. That was because  in 2008 Ratan Tata bought Jaguar and Land Rover in an all-cash transaction of USD$2.3 billion from Ford in June of that year. Which was about half of what Ford Motor paid to acquire both brands.


 

It’s been revealed to me by an impeccable source, who was an eye-witness to these hugely significant changes to Britain’s largest car and SUV producer, that at the time of Tata’s acquisition of JLR, Sir Ratan Tata tried to talk Wolfgang Reitzle into returning to run the companies, but Reitzle declined.


Instead, he advised Mr. Tata to hire a former German BMW colleague named Ralf Speth. Speth has been described to me as ‘Reitzle’s bagman’ – moving with him from BMW, to PAG (briefly), and then to the giant European industrial gases and engineering firm, Linde. Which is where Reitzle went after leaving PAG.

 

A friend who used to work at Jaguar, but moved to a new job on the tarmac at Birmingham airport’s executive jet centre, told me that on several occasions during the first months of Tata ownership, Reitzle arrived in the Linde corporate jet, and a Jaguar was waiting to take him to Jaguar HQ at Gaydon.

This was also at the time when Ralf Speth was booting as many British staff as possible, and hiring newcomers. It’s probably true to say that between them Reitzle and Speth continued the dismissals Reitzle had started when he joined PAG in 1999.


Given the close relationship between Reitzle and Speth, it wouldn’t surprise me if Reitzle  (who remember wasn’t employed by Tata), operated Speth with his hand up his back.

 

One of the first things Speth advised Tata to do was pull Land Rover and Jaguar together for financial synergy, thereby creating Jaguar Land Rover. There’s no doubt there were many synergies which could be exploited, and although both companies employed the brand new Ingenium petrol and diesel engines, there was no platform sharing. Neither was the any real attempt to put a cap on overheads, and cost control.


It makes me think that these smart arses in tailored suits do not know their 'real' history of Jaguar. Jaguar, traditionally, is a financially weak company. It always was, even when it was profitable. It never had strong financial foundations. The name is worth squillions; the potential is fantastic - but only to a degree.


It is possible to over-invest in Jaguar, because migrating a huge number of people from other luxury and premium marques is well nigh impossible. Whilst the brand is well known, and much loved by many, owning a Jaguar is just not for everyone.


There was a moment when that situation changed, but sadly, the outcome meant the end of Jaguar saloons with grace, pace and space - it was a whole other ballgame.




By 2012 the remaining fertile brains inside the Jaguar product planning division could see that Jaguar needed to expand into the rapidly-growing premium SUV segment, and it was Jaguar’s Director of Design, Ian Callum, who produced the stunning C-X17 concept car which debuted at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 2013.


That ‘reveal’ was followed by appearances at the Dubai and Guangzhou auto shows in November 2013. 


Then, a red (almost production spec) version appeared at the Brussel’s Motor Show in January 2014.



The concept was very well-received and just 12 months later Jaguar launched the F-Pace at the 2015 North American International Auto Show. From that moment confusion reigned in the minds of Jaguar enthusiasts all over the world! What’s happening here? 

Our favourite British car company has gone to ‘dark side’ and produced a car surely nobody will buy?

The rest is history. The sales statistics that I’ve checked in Jaguar’s global markets, show the F-Pace, E-Pace and i-Pace quickly became the biggest sellers in Jaguar’s range. Sales of the XE and XF sedans have now slowed to just a dribble of cars, and of course the bigger, beautiful, XJ sedan is no more.


The F-type roadster and coupe did okay, but just 'okay'.



So, what’s left for Jaguar now? This is the most critical time for Jaguar in my 45 year association with the brand, and having served for almost 20 years directly helping to sustain Jaguar’s survival, I truly think it’s currently on life support, with death impending.


I'm certain Sir Ratan Tata, and the man who replaced him, Nataragan Chandraserekan (right), are now very busy attempting to ascertain exactly how to salvage one of Britain's most famous and much-loved car brands, before it sinks without a trace!

 

Who is responsible for this tragic situation when one of the most famous, and best-loved brands in the world faces an ignominious failure to survive? Well, I can tell you.

 

Since Sir John Egan stepped down after the sale to Ford, Jaguar’s turbulent history has become even more so thanks to a revolving door of management,  bad management decisions, and leaders with lack of vision, lack of emotional engagement with the romance of the marque, and failing to recognise that the one thing that has always sustained Jaguar is the residual affection ‘car people’ have for Sir William Lyons’ vision, energy, astute management and his brilliance at understanding his customers. And, especially the cars he launched.

 

Today, the Jaguar company lacks every single one of those attributes.

 

Interestingly, even Reitzle himself once admitted to a Jaguar Board member that: “Jaguar is like Ferrari, and just wouldn't work when combined with another brand!”

 

In a telling final quote, I will relay something Sir John Egan confided to me, after I told him I had read his book ‘SAVING JAGUAR’:  “John, Great to hear from you!   Glad you enjoyed the book, I now wonder how I could have had the courage to keep going against all those odds. I kept telling Ford from the start that they would never learn how to run a luxury car company.  Of course, they had no intention of ever doing that.”


JOHN CRAWFORD


PS: (and this is the "I told you so, moment.")

Dateline: London, November 26, 2022 - Jaguar Land Rover is cutting production at its UK factories until Spring 2023, in a sign of its continuing struggle to source semi-conductors amid the global shortage.


This is code for, JLR can't afford to make any more vehicles than it can sell, and it already has a glut of unsold vehicles in the UK and global markets. In fact production of F-Pace will end, allowing more capacity for Land Rover SUVs; no more sedans or sports cars will be made; and you might as well forget about E-Pace.


Dear Reader, you'll have to wait until March 2023 to hear the next 'lame' explanation about hopes for JLR's (and mostly Jaguar's) survival.





Friday, November 25, 2022

BOLLORÉ'S BOMBSHELL & YET ANOTHER THREAT TO JAGUAR by John Crawford

Thierry Bolloré’s decision to resign after only two years in the top job is a devastating blow to Jaguar Land Rover, and one I fear that could significantly jeopardise Jaguar’s survival.


Jaguar has clung on and survived so many dramatic threats since Sir William Lyons retired it will fill business trends analyses for years. 


That survival story has been written, and re-written many times, and I have been witness to it all.

 


JLR is sitting on a precipice which could collapse beneath it, because all the major support systems car manufacturers depend on are slipping out of the company’s grasp – and whether Bolloré was the right man for the job, or not, matters little now.

 

In this post I will be confining my comments to Jaguar’s future.


Once the interim CEO, Adrian Mardell, who is also JLR’s CFO, gets into the CEO’s chair he will have to make decisions fast. The problem is that in the car industry it’s very hard to activate anything ‘immediately’, because there is a huge time lag between the idea and the execution. As you can imagine, there is no such thing in the car industry as things ‘happening overnight’ – that is, except firings, resignations and appointments.


So before delving into JLR’s myriad problems, let’s look at this resignation. First, let’s look at Thierry Bolloré. The recruitment process to replace the previous CEO Sir Ralf Speth, took six months, and many in the car industry were very surprised when Bolloré was appointed – given that after serving only nine months as CEO of Renault, he was unceremoniously dumped. 


There are all sorts of reasons given, but one thing is clear, he is a very ‘prickly’ character. His brain is as sharp as a tack, and his reactions are just as sharp.

 

The best advice is don’t get on his bad side. He is not known for any examples of ‘charm offensives’. He is brusque (to the point of appearing rude); doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and will not tolerate poor performance. I know this, because I have met him, twice, at the Geneva Salon. I have spoken with him, and watched him in action  at press conferences.

 

Thierry is very much cast in the ‘Ghosn Mould’ and is all about ‘getting things done’.

 

And, herein I think lays part of the answer for his truncated tenure at JLR. His manner has apparently upset both the Brits, and the Indians.




In addition, his ‘Reimagine’ plan was simply too ambitious for a car maker not only suffering from stalled sales, but also, his ‘Reimagine’ project caused major bust-ups with suppliers whom he was asking to make big investments to support the new plans.

 

The same suppliers to JLR are also suffering from parts shortages and lack of chips – just like all motor industry suppliers. However, it would appear many other luxury car companies (who also depend on chips for their expensive options) have been handling the chip crisis much more effectively.

 

It appears to me that there are currently too many loose ends within JLR that are not getting the attention they need. Bolloré may be a detail man when it comes to laying blame, but he is certainly not a man to get his hands dirty sweating the details of his plans – that’s for other people to do, and they had better do it right!

 

If the picture I have created of Thierry Bolloré reveals a ‘difficult man’ then I think I’ve got it right. He wants to achieve great things for JLR, but the trouble is there are many tiny elements not working out right; many pesky matters, like trying to deal with falling sales; a lack of attention to the ‘vision for the brands’, and lack of revenue to support investments and big changes. 


Right now, there is so much to be done, and JLR doesn’t have a visionary CEO, nor the substance in the company to deliver any of the changes required for survival.

 

So, yes, I think there’s a very big possibility that JLR (especially Jaguar) will fail – and be ripe for picking it up at the right price – because Tata Group simply doesn’t have the available cash to save its British Baby. Although my mole in China tells me Tata has knocked back an offer from China's Geely.

 

Let’s look at some of the numbers which make me feel like this challenge is hopeless. 

 

In his first few months Bolloré cancelled two BIG vehicle programs – the all-electric XJ large saloon, and the J-Pace EV SUV. They were signed off and ready to go into production. The asset and cash write-down from the cancellation is said to have cost JLR £1.5 billion!



That also meant that with no new models in the production pipeline, the Castle Bromwich plant would close, awaiting whatever new models came along with the ‘Reimagine’ projects!


More numbers. JLR is still losing money, with pre-tax losses for six consecutive quarters, whilst competitors were posting profits. 


The latest results for the July to September quarter (2022) reveal a £178 million loss, which adds up to a mind-blowing total for this YTD an eye-watering £697 million!

 

JLR says it has a backlog of 200,000 orders it cannot fulfill – but unfulfilled orders don’t pay the bills, until the customers get their cars.

 

Sales of the Jaguar brand were at 17,340 units in the second quarter (2022) as against 19,248 units in the year-ago period, down 9.9 per cent.  Land Rover division sales are doing better, thanks to the new Range Rover, and continued sales success of the new Defender.

But, JLR has not made a profit since 2018, despite bold plans to boost production to more than one million vehicles a year (*more on this later), in order to challenge the German Big Three.


The plan, which was introduced by Ralf Speth, would cost £25 billion - and increase vehicle production lines from seven to fourteen, boosting the workforce to more than 40,000! The plan expanded JLR too far, too fast - and the headcount grew exponentially, so when the downturn inevitably came Jaguar had a massive overhead to battle with.

 

Vehicle output was boosted significantly in the UK, India, Slovakia and Brazil, but the expected sales growth never materialized, plateauing at 614,309 in 2018, which resulted in turnover of £25 billion, and profits of £1.5 billion. Those were the last of the ‘Good Old Days’.

 

What followed was a sharper downturn in sales, investment write-offs, and thousands of job losses. All of which leaves the mood within JLR as extremely gloomy – albeit probably, frightening!

 

I suspect the Tata management, struggling to deal with the mess that Speth left behind, just lost interest in the ‘grand REIMAGINE plan’ and that could explain Bolloré's decision to leave ‘for personal reasons’. Sorry, mate. It’s not going to work!

 

However, there appears to be another factor deeply ingrained in some of Bolloré’s thinking. Insiders tell me that designer (sorry, Chief Creative Officer) Gerry McGovern has spent a huge amount of time and effort attempting to ingratiate himself with Bolloré.


Why? McGovern, whose ego runs a close second to people like Wolfgang Reitzle, wants to ‘show’ former Jaguar Design Directors, Ian Callum and the late Geoff Lawson, just ‘how’ a Jaguar should be designed!

 

This ego-driven approach to product decisions by McGovern could be seen, in step with Bolloré’s radical plans, to be the pivot which could probably spell the end of Jaguar.

 

Now, after devoting almost 20 years of my career to helping to sustain the Jaguar brand, let me put forward some personal views. They may not save the company, but I think they’re important to consider.

 

PERSONAL VIEWPOINT

 

When Sir William Lyons started the ‘real’ Jaguar company (after the initial branding as SS) it competed with a couple of ultra-luxury brands – Rolls-Royce and Bentley – but given Lyons' tiny budgets and his tight-fisted control over expenditures and investment, Jaguar was a niche, luxury player.


 

Under Lyons’ leadership the cars boasted exceptionally-sporty performance and handling, wood, leather, a confident stance in the market and an image of :“You mean I get ALL THIS, for only £££ !




Jaguars were seen as a ‘luxury bargain’, with outstanding performance and handling. However, even in those heady days, as the company established its reputation, it was only selling to a tiny niche of the car market in Britain, and a few export markets. It simply wasn’t a BIG company – even though its reputation was becoming legendary.

 

Jaguars may have been cheaper than Bentley and Rolls-Royce’s finest, but they certainly were not mass-market cars, by any stretch of the imagination. So, however brilliant the reputation it was still a small company making cars for a small, but loyal following.

 

Here’s where I come in. I began working with Jaguar in Australia, as PR Manager, in 1977, after almost ten years as a freelance motoring journalist and editor of MODERN MOTOR magazine, soaking up all I could about brands, their performance, their sales and their reputations.

 

I always thought Jaguars were ‘pretty special’ and almost an ‘undiscovered gem’ and as I began to frame my PR messages and communications I focussed very strongly on the ‘exclusive’ nature of Jaguar ownership. My messages were created around an idea: “No, you may not be able to afford something more expensive, but just look at the Jaguar proposition and what it delivers.”

 

I instinctively knew we were dealing with a small niche, and so long as those owners were satisfied, we had thousands of loyal owners who would happily return; plus, their positive word of mouth slowly boosted sales. So, my PR messages then began to focus on the elements of success the brand was proud of – it’s motor racing victories (including Le Mans); its great road test stories written by journalists who loved the brand because of the performance-value for money equation, and promotion of celebrities who chose the brand – like Clark Gable, et al. All of which added to the emotional appeal of the Jaguar brand.

 

So, after revealing all this personal aggrandisement, what have I got to say about the immediate past, and current situation?

 

Jaguar was very successful as a niche player, with cars which were outstanding value for money, but they were still niche players.

 

Every car company which had any vision for Jaguar had the same stupid idea. Namely, if Jaguar can make money selling 30,000 cars a year, think how much it could make if it sold 100,000 cars a year?

 

And that’s where all of them, from Ford to Tata (and sadly, Jac Nasser and Thierry Bolloré) failed to see the reality of the brand’s status in the marketplace. Because that is what the punters who bought Jaguars thought about the brand. They (smartly) recognised its values.

 

When the Jaguar X-type was launched, I remember Jac Nasser forecasting Jaguar would build in excess of 40,000 X-types a year, and total production could reach 100,000 cars!


Of course, the 40K X-types p.a. was just a sop to the British Government, because Ford wanted to shut down some Ford factories and put off thousands.


Ford's response to the government, was that Jaguar would build a new luxury car at the Hailwood plant, and would continue employing Brits.

 

We all know what happened, the X-type was a commercial failure.


I think perhaps that's when Jaguar’s demise to where it is today probably started then.

 

The idea of Jaguar competing with Bentley, and the German trio is quite frankly a joke. The company doesn’t have the substance, the technical resource, nor the reputation to insert itself into that segment.

 

In my mind, after Tata took over it should have produced just three models – the F-type sports car; the XE mid-sized sedan, and the XJ saloon – with the i-Pace coming along to show the promise of electrification of just those models – and more, if there was demand.



The production output would have made them relatively scarce, boosting demand, and endowing Jaguars with the same reputation it enjoyed under William Lyons.

 

Now, the industry heavies are going to tell me that this scenario is just not possible. The costs of making competitive Jaguars in the sub-Premium segment is still expensive, demanding big investments, in order to get a profitable return. My response is, approach this scenario like Bill Lyons would. Lyons followed the maxim of 'restricting supply', from 1951-1972 - and Jaguar was profitable.

 

So in my mind it's a simple recipe: Make great cars which represent excellent value for money; don’t invest more than is sensible; keep an eye on overheads and expenses, and balance the company’s survival around the realisable profits from this modest plan. Don’t be greedy. After all, it does have stablemate Land Rover as a sort of ‘cash cow’.



I think Jaguar could still achieve a truly sustainable future if its ambitions (or the ambitions of its owner(s), were less ambitious than they have been.

 

I could be dead wrong, but Bill Lyons died a rich man, and Jaguar was making solid profits under his leadership.


PART TWO OF MY REVIEW OF JAGUAR FOLLOWS


JOHN CRAWFORD