Company Vitae: Jaguar Land Rover

It has had a chequered past but the UK's largest luxury carmaker is on the up again. Here's how it happened...

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Formative years

JLR is pretty much all that's left of an entire industry, so its roots are deep and tangled. The Rover bit is the oldest name still over the door, first applied to bicycles by the Coventry firm of Starley & Sutton in the late 19th century. What would Rover's cycling pioneers make of the fact that it is now renowned as the inventor of the Chelsea tractor? The Range Rover of 1974 started that luxury 4x4 ball rolling.

Jaguar also started on two wheels, founded by William Lyons as Swallow Sidecars (SS) in 1922. Renamed Jaguar after WWII for obvious reasons, it became the UK's leading maker of 'affordable' luxury and sports cars, with models like the XK120, E-type and XJ6. Jags were the wheels of choice for every 1960s bank robber.

Recent history

Both Jaguar and Land Rover survived - just - the ravages of British Leyland in the 1970s, when Red Robbo seemed to be running the company. Privatised in 1984, Jaguar was bought by Ford in 1989, but Rover struggled on in public hands as Austin-Rover, purveyor of the Montego and Maestro. Acquired by BMW in 1994, the Rover Group's brief renaissance ended when its German owner, having sunk millions into new plant and models, realised its wunderplan wasn't a goer. The group was broken up in 2000 and Land Rover joined Jag in Ford's Premier Auto Group. Both brands were eventually sold to Tata Group for $2.3bn in 2008, when JLR was formed. Earlier this year, Tata opened its first non-UK factory, a Freelander assembly plant in Pune, India.

Who's the boss?

Tata Group is run by Indian patriarch Ratan Tata, whose interests range from tea to IT, cars to heavy construction (in the UK, Tata also owns Tetley Tea and Corus steel). He chairs JLR himself, but it has been through several CEOs: current incumbent Ralph Speth took over in January, when David Smith left unexpectedly.

The secret formula?

JLR's Range Rover models go down a storm in emerging markets, where the newly wealthy like to flaunt their cash. Jaguar is on the up too, thanks to the award-winning XF and plans for a new baby Jag to take on the BMW 3 Series. Tata isn't afraid of investment, ploughing over £1.5bn into the business, most recently announcing it will build a £350m engine factory in the Midlands and create an extra 1,000 jobs in its Solihull factory.

Proudest moment?

Surviving the financial crash of 2008. Sales dived overnight and only support from the Tata Group kept JLR afloat. Employees and management created new, flexible working agreements, finally laying the ghost of industrial unrest that has stalked the British car industry since the 1970s.

Vital statistics

Employees: 21,000
Sales: £9.9bn
Profit: £1.04bn
Factories: 4 (3 in UK, 1 in Pune, India)

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