The new CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, who brings more than 30 years of experience to his position, has a rather challenging role ahead as he works out a blueprint to steer the marquee brand out of the current crisis.
If 2020 is about tackling challenges and converting an adversity into an opportunity, Thierry Bollore has a rather interesting story to tell. Almost a year after the French automobile major ousted him as chief executive officer, the British marquee brand, Jaguar Land Rover put him on the driver’s seat as CEO.
With car production falling 18.2 percent in October across the United Kingdom, the UK new car market suffering 1.3 billion-pound sterling revenue-hit, new car registrations dropping close to 30 percent in November and the British car maker continuing to face challenges in its main markets — China, US and Europe — over the past three years, the job is cut out for Bollore.
Charged up to tackle challenges?
Bollore, who has more than 30 years’ experience of international business succeeded Professor Sir Ralf Speth on September 10, 2020 and will be
the fourth CEO since Tata Motors acquired the company 12 years ago. But interestingly, he was not in the list of favoured candidates to succeed Speth. Bollore was the surprise choice to head JLR. Always considered a close ally of Ghosn, he had gone out of circulation since the time he was given the boot at Renault as the company tried distancing itself from its erstwhile CEO Carlos Ghosn after his arrest. Before Bollore’s unceremonious exit from Renault, he was in charge of accelerating the company’s EV adoption plans. The hope is that the experience comes handy for his stint at JLR with UK government’s stiff zero emission targets by 2030.
The challenges for JLR are manifold at the moment. Apart from the Covid-19-related production risks, the free cash flow has also reduced significant. The possibility of supply chain disruption from Brexit, strict emissions norms, other export-related tariff issues, JLR’s Chinese JV recording its first loss in five years and the still shaky sales indicators globally are not helping concerns anyway. That is why perhaps Bollore’s appointment at this crucial juncture gains importance as well as attention.
An MBA from Paris-Dauphine University, specialising in Finance and fluent in multiple languages, Bollore has donned many hats in his long career starting with the position of being the Shop Manager of Michelin’s Heavy Truck tyre factory in 1990s. After a 12-year stint with the tyre major, Bollore shifted to component supplier Faurecia in 2005 and eventually moved to Renault in 12 years as Industry and Supply Chain Group EVP. Bolloré then took on the role of Chief Competitive Officer in 2013 before becoming Chief Operating Officer in 2018 and finally CEO.
The soft-spoken auto industry leader with the quintessential French glint in his eyes and passion for boats is known for making waves. Tata Motors’ chairman N Chandrasekaran referred to him as, “An established global business leader with a proven track record of implementing complex transformations, Thierry will bring a wealth of experience to one of the most revered positions in the industry."
Bollore on his part, considers it a “privilege” to join this “peerless brand”, “Renowned for their passion and spirit, the people of Jaguar Land Rover are the driving force behind its success. I couldn’t be more excited to join the team continuing to shape the future of this iconic company.”
Therefore, for now, it is time to see how the man, born in Brittany, who engineered complex global and cross-cultural collaborations strategises to steer Britain’s largest car maker off the choppy waters that it is currently in the midst of.
This was first published in Autocar professional's 16th Anniversary issue on December 15, 2020.