Jaguar Land Rover’s design team shuffle may signal bigger changes

To the casual observer, the reshuffle of design leadership at Jaguar Land Rover might not be much more than internal house management and a reward for Gerry McGovern’s unusually successful long run (from a 1985 MG concept to the next Range Rover) at the various brands that once made up British Leyland.

However, the changes put in place under the management of new CEO Thierry Bolloré mark a shift for the company in combining JLR design activities under one roof, given both design directors now report to McGovern.

A single design studio, it’s argued, makes more operational sense and helps Jaguar avoid the limitations of operating as small, standalone operation. 

Indeed, as Bolloré and his team work intensively on their restructuring plans for JLR, one source has also flaoted to Autocar the most radical suggestion is for Jaguar to be folded into the Land Rover operation, making it a genuine single company for the first time, although this is something that JLR denies.

It would be huge change for the brand, which has managed to retain its independent identity during a tumultuous 50 years.

When Jaguar became part of the British Motor Holdings conglomerate in 1965, it was still a family firm, run by Sir William Lyons. As part of BMH and, 18 months later, British Leyland Motor Corporation, it remained a standalone operation.

Its sale to Ford in 1989 made no difference to its status, despite it being a very small operation. 

Even Ford’s sale of Jaguar to Indian giant Tata didn’t greatly impact on its independence of product development and, after the demise of its post-war Browns Lane factory, it also found a new production base in Castle Bromwich.

However, the combination of the sales impact from the coronavirus pandemic and the huge costs for JLR’s development of the MLA architecture means the source suggest Jaguar’s days of semi-independence may be coming to an end.

The cold hard facts are that the XE and XF saloons were sales failures by any global comparison and the expansion of the Jaguar range with modest-selling models such as the E-Pace and I-Pace via licensed production overseas might not have been especially profitable ventures.

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While there’s no doubt that JLR is about to undergo a significant transformation, the company’s Jaguar problem needs to be addressed.