The night before we meet Jeremy Vincent, CIO of luxury car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover there had been a technological problem on one of the production lines. For any CIO and any manufacturer this is an issue, but for this British manufacturing institution the enormity of the problem is amplified because around the world there is a hunger for its products akin to that of the big cat which Jaguar is named after.
Vincent explains that Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is on full shifts “running flat out” and cannot afford a loss of production overnight, which would result in around 200 vehicles not rolling off its production lines in the Midlands at Coventry or Solihull.
In the last 12 months JLR has doubled production, manufacturing in excess of 300,000 vehicles from three plants, with 80 per cent of that product heading overseas. Profit before tax in 2010/11 was £1.5bn and since India’s Tata took control of the company in 2008 the car maker has been recruiting, adding much-needed manufacturing jobs to the national economy.
Vincent talks of the company with the sort of passion its cars foster from enthusiasts as he explains how JLR has grown to offer nine different product lines and has ambitions to offer 14 by 2015.
“We are now on an aggressive and ambitious growth strategy to double our vehicle volumes to 850,000,” he says. The Range Rover Evoque launched last year will be joined by a recently announced F-Type Jaguar sports car as well as all-wheel-drive versions of the XJ and XF saloons. Land Rover will also increase the number of two?wheel-drive vehicles it offers.
Ratan Tata, head of the Indian firm recently told a national newspaper that when Tata acquired JLR it didn’t seem able to consider and create its own destiny. Initial fears were that Tata would shift manufacturing to India to save costs, and although global expansion of the manufacturing is being considered. A letter of intent and investigation into a Saudi Arabia plant are currently being analysed as JLR in the UK expands to meet growing demand.
Interviewing Vincent, it soon becomes pretty clear that this business leader is clear about the destiny of JLR. His peers describe him as ‘a force of nature’ and exactly what IT at JLR needed in the post-Ford ownership era.
Vincent and the executive team are bound to be enjoying the renaissance of luxury British-made cars, but they are also realistic about the challenges they face.
“Volatility in currency and commodity prices, changes in the Chinese economy and the eurozone crisis are all threats,” he says. “Plus we are highly regulated for safety, emissions and we are always compliant in all territories.
“We have to recognise the consumer pattern for smaller, more fuel economic and environmentally friendly vehicles and I think we have done a good job on cars like the new Range Rover,” he says of the vehicle launched in September 2012 that now uses a 100 per cent aluminium chassis, removing half a ton of weight from the model it replaces and thus using a smaller, more fuel efficient engine with no loss in performance.
Vincent also believes that JLR has matured from an organisation that has always been feted for engineering excellence to one that is also focused on the ‘vagaries’ of the market and consumer aspirations. For the CIO and his business leadership peers, that has meant enabling JLR to feed those vagaries back into the production cycles to meet the changing needs of customers. The launch of all-wheel-drive XF and XJ saloons will create market opportunities in North America where it’s said that 90 per cent of cars sold have all-wheel drive.