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Jaguar Land Rover CEO Ralf Speth Stepping Down

  • Greg Fitzgerald
  • Feb 5, 2020

JLR CEO Ralf Speth in 2012

 

After a decade at the head of Jaguar Land Rover, CEO Ralf Speth will be stepping down from the role in September 2020. He will transition to the board of Tata Sons, which is the holding company of JLR owner Tata Group.

Speth joined JLR in 2010 as CEO, a few years after Tata purchased the two brands from Ford Motor Company. He had experience with the company, however, having worked for Ford’s Premier Auto Group, which managed Land Rover and Jaguar alongside Volvo and Aston Martin until all four brands were sold off in the late 2000s to raise funds to prevent Ford from going bankrupt. He joined PAG following a 20-year career with BMW, during which he was Vice President of Land Rover during the German company’s ownership of Rover Group.

Speth oversaw Land Rover through several cycles of boom and bust. When he came in in 2010, the company was still reeling from a decade and a half of constant change. He stabilized the company and started an extremely aggressive expansion program. That included everything from factories in foreign countries to avoid tariffs and lower labor costs, to a huge expansion of the Land Rover and Jaguar model lines.

This experiment paid off handsomely, with JLR’s sales hitting new records in 2017 and 2018, and now closing in on a million units globally per year between the two brands, a feat never before achieved. However, in the middle of 2018, the tide suddenly and drastically turned. The company began to face a weakened Chinese market, as well as popular opinion in Europe started to turn against the diesel motors that JLR had just invested in. Additionally, Brexit impacted the company due to the uncertainty in how far the withdrawal agreement would impact the business.

Dramatic cost-cutting efforts helped to reverse this tide, and now JLR’s prospects are looking positive again. The company is now stable, if cautious. As the auto industry moves into new powertrains, Speth has set them up with joint ventures with BMW that will cut costs for both electric motors and future high-performance gasoline motors. There is still much to do, but JLR invested early in electric with the Jaguar I-Pace project and looks set to benefit from that effort for a long time.

No successor has been named for Speth, and Tata has said they have begun a search committee. Early Financial Times reports mentioned Hanne Sorensen, former CEO of Maersk and a current Tata Motors Independent Director, but that should probably be taken with a grain of salt until an announcement is made.

Speth leaves JLR having fundamentally changed two of Britain’s most iconic automotive brands, and he was rewarded for this in 2015 with the award of Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, the second-highest rank in the order. Through ups and downs, Land Rover would likely not be in the position of strength they are in now without his guiding hand and years of experience with the company across various owners.


  • Written By
  • Greg Fitzgerald
  • Adventure addict. '90s Land Rover daily driver. Historic preservationist. Personal vehicles: 1994 Discovery I, 1994 Range Rover Classic, 1961 Series II.
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