Jaguar Land Rover boss Sir Ralf Speth has signed off after ten years at the helm of Britain’s biggest car maker.
Sir Ralf steps down from his role as chief executive officer but will retain a place on the Tata Motors board, which is the parent company of the Coventry-based company.
It has been a rollercoaster ride for Jaguar Land Rover, with the former BMW executive, who turns 65 this week, steadying the ship during the early part of his tenure before overseeing a massive period of growth.
Latterly the company has had to go through tough times again.
Like all car makers Jaguar Land Rover has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic but it had problems to contend with before that.
The company was coping with a number of difficulties before Covid-19 came along – with sales falling off a cliff in China, demand for diesel vehicles plummeting and the challenges posed by uncertainty over Brexit.
It seems likely that Sir Ralf will be remembered for the many highs experienced during his time at the helm rather than some of the more recent lows.
To mark his departure Sir Ralf spoke exclusively to Ken Gibson from the Sun about his time in charge.
The interview highlighted how under his leadership the workforce shot up to over 40,000 while sales also soared.
Sir Ralf picked up the reins in the aftermath of the 2009-09 financial crisis.
His period of leadership also saw the car maker massively expand its global manufacturing footprint and new factories were built in China, India, Slovakia and Brazil.
Sir Ralf’s achievements were honoured with a knighthood in 2019.
The overriding theme of his departing interview was how much he enjoyed the role, saying: “This company was my life. It has taken over my life.”
Outlining Sir Ralf’s achievements the interview highlighted how sales almost tripled and more than 17,000 new jobs were created in his first five years in charge.
It also focused on some of the key new models that were launched – among them the Range Rover Evoque and the Land Rover Discovery Sport.
The Evoque was seen in the industry as one of those transformational models that helped redefine an entire marque.
It also saw Jaguar Land Rover’s sales propelled into the stratosphere.
Sir Ralf spoke of his immense pride in a more recent model – the all-electric Jaguar I-Pace, which won several awards and is blazing a trail for Jaguar Land Rover’s electric future.
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Some of Sir Ralf’s tougher decisions have revolved around the “Charge and Accelerate” programme, which saw the loss of 4,500 jobs and £2.9 billion of cost savings.
The outgoing boss also spoke of his optimism about Jaguar Land Rover’s future, saying: “We have a very young, powerful product portfolio and exciting new models on the way.”
He highlighted new models in the pipeline and the transformation of the Castle Bromwich factory into a plant focused on electric vehicles.
Looking back on his career the interview also covered huge investment in Jaguar Land Rover’s factories at Solihull, Castle Bromwich and Halewood, along with a new engine factory in Wolverhampton. Also a major investment at its Gaydon design and engineering centre in Warwickshire.
Perhaps appropriately the final all-new model to break cover in Sir Ralf’s time was the all-new Land Rover Defender.
An apt end to his time in charge perhaps, given that the original Land-Rover, on which the Defender was based, got the whole Land Rover ball rolling in the first place.
Sir Ralf said he believed the new Defender family will be “a cornerstone” of the business.”
When the announcement was made Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chairman of Tata Sons, Tata Motors and Jaguar Land Rover, paid tribute to Sir Ralf.
He said: “I want to thank Ralf for a decade of outstanding vision and leadership for Jaguar Land Rover and welcome him to his new non-executive position in addition to his existing role on the board of Tata Sons.”