Less than a year after being ousted from Renault, Thierry Bolloré, who was known to be close to former-CEO-turned-fugitive Carlos Ghosn, will take charge as chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover.
The development brings to an end Tata Motors’ six-month-long head-hunting exercise, which began after the announcement of current JLR CEO Ralf Speth’s retirement.
Bolloré will become the fourth executive (after David Smith, Carl-Peter Forster and Ralf Speth) to take charge of JLR since its acquisition by Tata Motors 12 years ago.
In a statement on the appointment, N Chandrasekaran, Chairman, Tata Sons, said: “I am delighted to welcome Thierry to Jaguar Land Rover. An established global business leader with a proven track record of implementing complex transformations, Thierry will bring a wealth of experience to one of the most revered positions in the industry.”
In the hotseat
Bolloré assumes office on September 10, and will have his task cut out from Day 1.
Jaguar Land Rover recorded a GBP 469 million net loss in FY20, which was preceded by a massive GBP 3.32 billion net loss in FY19. Its retail sales stood at 508,659 vehicles in FY20, down 12.1 percent year-on-year, including a significant impact on sales in the fourth quarter as well as other market challenges.
The company’s China joint venture (CJLR) recorded its first loss in five years in FY20.
One blip in a quick rise to the top
Bolloré, who had travelled to India in mid-2019 to unveil the Renault Triber, had raised questions over the Renault-Nissan alliance’s internal investigation of former boss Carlos Ghosn.
The soft-spoken auto industry veteran was allegedly ousted from Renault after Nissan concluded that his ‘concerns were unfounded and were based, for the most part, on inaccurate information and speculation’. Bolloré had described the manoeuvring against him as a “strong-arm coup”.
Before the unceremonious exit though, Bolloré had swiftly climbed the career ladder. He began his career at French tyremaking company Michelin, where he went on to become vice-president of the Aircraft business. Bolloré later joined auto parts manufacturer Faurecia before eventually joining Groupe Renault and becoming its CEO within six years.
At Renault, Bolloré was responsible for accelerating the company's EV adoption. Industry observers note that Renault's electric cars are beginning to do well in Europe. The carmaker may launch its first EV in India in 2021.
The experience will come in more than handy at JLR.
The JLR challenge
Bolloré’s appointment at Jaguar Land Rover comes amid a massive belt-tightening exercise by the two British brands, which began after they recorded their second consecutive annual loss last year.
To bring in efficiencies JLR is going aggressively after costs and cutting back on undeclared but unviable projects.
Tata Motors has also decided to scale back capital expenditure at JLR by 45 percent, to GBP 2.5 billion, in FY21.
Project Charge (now Charge+) is claimed to have achieved cost, profit and cash-flow improvements of GBP 600 million in Q4 and is on course for the target of GBP 2 billion by March 2021.