TORONTO — Jaguar Land Rover isn’t a high-volume automaker, but its global chief Ralf Speth thinks that’s a benefit.
“Big is not everything,” Speth said. “We want to have profitable, solid, sustainable growth. We don’t need volume, we need cars with character. As long as we deliver cars with substance and desire, I have no fear with Jaguar Land Rover in the future. We are agile and we see more change than ever, and that’s the quality of smaller companies.”
‘ARCH’ STORE DESIGN
Jaguar Land Rover has announced a new global — and mandatory — “Arch” design for its dealerships, which brings both brands together in single buildings with a signature grey exterior. All new Canadian dealerships will be built with the design, and existing ones will convert to it, but since many Canadian stories already have a similar look, they won’t be required to renovate immediately.
“Our Arch implementation will finish around 2020,” said Wolfgang Hoffmann, president of Jaguar Land Rover Canada. “Last year [we announced] six additional dealerships in Canada, and we will go from 25 to 31 dealers. The network will have the new look and more capacity than before. Our biggest challenge is capacity, because the two brands are experiencing significant growth.”
The product mix is shifting, and while Speth doesn’t see gasoline or diesel going away anytime soon — the automaker maintains an average 11 per cent diesel take rate in Canada — electrification is playing a growing role. The company has electric concepts and race vehicles, and will offer its Range Rover and Range Rover Sport as plugin hybrids by the end of the year.
“I cannot predict the future, but I’m optimistic that electric-vehicle sales are going to accelerate, and more than we expect,” Speth said. “We work with battery manufacturers all around the world, and we are instrumental in the U.K. with Oxford, Cambridge and other universities working together to create a scientific base for battery [improvement].
“We can produce the cars, but what’s going on is [with] the infrastructure. I am quite sure we will have enough energy, but we also have to have infrastructure. We need standardization to protect the customer, with how the sockets fit together. It’s not a small thing. The industry has to come together and someone take over the lead to give us standards.”
Speth spoke with Automotive News Canada in Toronto in late September, before the opening of the Invictus Games for wounded, injured and ill war veterans. Jaguar Land Rover is a sponsoring partner.
The automaker has a special hiring program for veterans, which launched in Canada in September. The first placement was at Jaguar Land Rover Edmonton. The program began in Britain in 2013, followed by the United States in 2016, where almost 200 veterans have been hired.
“We began this program because we had ex-servicemen living under bridges in England,” Speth said. “We are sending these people to the most awkward situations, and when they come back there is nothing for them. This is not just marketing. We have an obligation.”
The program is run in conjunction with consulting and technology firm Calibre. In addition to a website for job opportunities, the company works with the military to identify potential candidates. They must still be “the best candidate for the job,” Speth said, adding that many veterans are a good choice because they’ve received specialized technical training through the military.