Jaguar Land Rover’s new boss, Carl-Peter Forster, has emerged from 100 days of silence to reveal plans for a major product shake-up. The radical vision includes greater separation for the Land Rover and Range Rover brands, the launch of an all-new, mid-size Range Rover between LRX and Range Rover Sport, a potential for the Tata Group to manufacture ‘own-brand’ diesel and petrol engines to be shared with JLR, and the opening of a plant in China to assemble around 20,000 Freelander-based models per year by 2014.
Forster, the ex-GM Europe chief who became Tata Motors Group CEO in February, was accompanied by Ralph Speth, the ex-Ford executive who joined JLR as CEO (and Forster’s right-hand-man) at the same time. Speaking a day after the Tata Group announced a 40 percent profit jump that included a modest return to profitability for Jaguar and Land Rover, the pair said their future strategy was “step-by-step expansion, not at the expense of profits, that will add new models, new engines and new derivatives to Jaguar, Range Rover and Land Rover.
Reports that newly profitable JLR has shelved plans to close one of its three UK manufacturing plans are incorrect, Forster said. Under present plans, either Solihull or Castle Bromwich will close around the middle of this decade — but no further decision about which would be saved is likely to come before the end of a product review. Forster praised “the entrepreneurial spirit” of his Tata-led Group, which he said is creating a new culture at Gaydon. He confirmed that Jaguar was investigating the business case for a small Jaguar saloon and was proceeding quickly with the new, sub-XK Jaguar roadster, a plan dear to the heart of Group chairman Ratan Tata. “We are looking at clay models now,” said Forster, “and we are all pretty keen on what we see.”