Embattled JLR announces new boss.
As the British premium sportscar and gravel travel brand struggles with production disruptions and the transition from diesel to electric power, it will now have the added complexity of new leadership.
JLR has confirmed that its charismatic and successful CEO of the last decade, Ralph Speth, will be replaced by Frenchman, Thierry Bollore.
Although Speth had guided JLR to unprecedented product acclaim and profitability, he was unable to stem enormous losses over the last year, which amounted to R8bn. Customer rejection of Land Rover’s traditional turbodiesel engines, the spectre of Brexit and then a global health pandemic – these all proved too much for even Speth’s skilled leadership.
The German’s replacements at JLR is a former Renault CEO, who was disposed of late last year, as part of the toxic corporate politics between Nissan and Renault. Bollore spent the first decade and a half of his career at Michelin but was not employed as a design engineer. He specialised in processing and tyre production, eventually heading Michelin’s significantly technical aviation business.
For Bollore the greatest challenge will be to contain costs, whilst not debasing the luxury feel and features of JLR’s products. Jaguar is an enormous issue for the company, with its legacy sportscars and limousines facing dwindling demand in all global markets. Bollore will have to formulate a plan for the Jaguar brand, without endangering Land Rover’s stability – which provides nearly all the company’s current revenue.
The risk for JLR is how much of a product visionary Bollore will prove to be. At Renault, he would never have calculated competing with larger format Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz products. For JLR, its rivals are exactly those luxury German brands and their products are used for benchmarking.
During his time at Renault, Bollore was an expert at supply chain management and if JLR needs to negotiate its supplier base, he will prove adept at this. Whether someone who has no experience of managing daring design and advanced vehicle technology teams is the correct CEO for JLR, will have to be seen.