Jaguar Land Rover has been dominating headlines lately, for reasons both good and bad.
On Friday of last week, Carl-Peter Forster announced that he would be stepping down as the Group Chief Executive Officer of Tata Motors. On Tuesday, Land Rover unveiled the long-awaited and highly controversial remodeling of their iconic Defender at the Frankfurt Auto Show. It will be exciting to see what the rest of the week has in store.
Citing “unavoidable circumstances,” Carl-Peter Forster, 57, resigned as CEO following an 18-month stint at the helm of Jaguar Land Rover. During his tenure, Forster oversaw a 20-fold jump in JLR profit before tax in the fiscal year ending March 31. Forster was instrumental in creating a new vision for the company, which culminated in a 2.4 billion dollar investment aimed at creating new models and expanding presence in India and China.
“This is a big blow really for Jaguar Land Rover. He [Forster] signed off on a very bold change in direction for the company,” noted Andrew Jackson, Analyst at Datamonitor.
More recently, Jaguar Land Rover and parent company Tata Motors have seen sales decline steadily over the past 6 months. Tata Motors’ shares have also declined significantly, trading at new 52-week lows. The lapse in performance is credited largely to the tumultuous debt crisis in Europe.
Jaguar Land Rover presented their new concept Defenders – the DC100 and DC100 Sport – this morning at the Frankfurt Auto Show, revealing a two-door hardtop Defender that predictably matched the concept photos leaked the week prior. However, Land Rover caught a number of attendees by surprise with their DC100 Sport, a bright yellow convertible Defender with a waterproof interior.
Feedback on the new Defenders has been luke-warm at best. Jaguar Land Rover is quick to remind the public that the concept is not a finished product, but stands by the notion that the model must change.
Gerry McGovern, Global Design Director Land Rover:
“The heart of the Defender is capability, pure and simple. And yet, design is just as important to a Defender as it is any other Land Rover vehicle. We have no desire to imitate our past. We will design a Defender that is relevant to the 21st Century”
This has been a difficult pill for Rover enthusiasts to swallow but the fact is, a military-spec, hand manufactured vehicle (like current and past models) does not make for sustainable business. Land Rover has pledged not to compromise any of the Defender’s capabilities in its redesign, and with advancements in technology, they shouldn’t need to. Rover has also stated that the DC100 will remain highly customizable, allowing it to be as rugged or as civil as needed by its owner.
“Civility” has not been a Defender trait in the past, but Land Rover is changing directions. With business hurting, Jaguar Land Rover cannot afford to make a vehicle that isn’t profitable. The new Defender may not appeal to the enthusiasts, but the enthusiast market is not what they are after.
Click here to read Land Rover responses to FAQs about the DC100
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