Interview – Rawdon Glover MD, Jaguar Land Rover

How Jaguar Land Rover will attack the challenges ahead

Rawdon Glover was appointed managing director of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) in the UK earlier this year, succeeding the promoted Jeremy Hicks as part of a wider restructure at the British firm.

Having previously held senior director roles at the Volkswagen Group in sales, marketing and aftersales during a career spanning 19 years in the automotive industry, Glover joined JLR in 2013 and has spent the past five years working as the global director for services.

His remit is now to energise both the Jaguar and Land Rover brands. And while he’s quick to acknowledge the challenges ahead, he has been buoyed by winning What Car?’s Best Approved Used Programme 2018 award and JLR’s reasonable, market trend-bucking registrations even during the hardest sales months, and he sees many reasons to be positive.

You arrive at a time of change for the industry and JLR, so has the brief for your role changed from Jeremy’s?

“Not really. The priorities remain pretty much the same, starting with the fact that we want to sell cars by maximising our share of the new and used markets. That’s easy to say, of course, but it encompasses everything from controlling our residuals to improving our service capabilities, for both our retailers and customers.”

But to achieve those goals in the current market and a changing world, surely you will have to change aspects of how things are done?

“Of course. There is no such thing as a steady ship in this climate, and everything is evolving, from the make-up of the model portfolio – especially in terms of the powertrains – through to the evolution of the retail model.

“But I also think it’s too binary to look at ‘change’, pre-decide the end point and then apply that now. Take car retailing; people talk about buying cars online as if it’s done, dusted and agreed. That’s nonsense. We don’t just need retailers now, we need them as part of any online buying journey, too. The digital journey is evolving, but that doesn’t mean it will sweep everything that’s established out of the way.”

Is it digitalisation that’s leading the change?

“Largely, yes. It’s part of the world we live in, and we can’t ignore it. The biggest win I can see is in making the customer journey as seamless as possible, but the challenge within that statement is that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Customers aren’t homogenous, and many don’t want a digital journey all of the way; they want to dip in and out, taking in physical touch points too, and the challenge is to offer a great service on every level. Digital experiences can’t replace great sales people, quality test drive experiences and more.”

Who is tackling the digital challenges the best at the moment?

“It’s a broad landscape, but if you look at the spectrum from website configurators through to the ability to order a car online, I think the truth is that nobody is doing it brilliantly. We all have a lot to learn and a lot to improve.

“That said, I think there are things we have done brilliantly. The Jaguar I-Pace app, which measures how you use your car and tells you honestly if an electric car can be right for you, is a great example of that. So too is the concierge service we provide for I-Pace customers, so they can ask us questions at any time. It’s pushing into a new area, where we can interact with customers during their ownership as well as buying and selling experiences.”

‘The I-Pace is sold out up to April and we get 1000 test drive requests per month’

What about legacy issues you must address? Presumably, diesel is at the top of your list of immediate problems?

“It’s certainly a challenge for us, and the wider industry, yes. It’s a fact that we over-index on diesel sales relative to our competition, but there are two lines to take with that. Firstly, one of education and balancing the dialogue, because the latest diesels are so clean relative to what’s gone before, and they can be the right choice in the right circumstances. Secondly, offering alternatives, which we are successfully doing in terms of plug-in hybrid options and, of course, the I Pace.”

Has the tide turned such that diesel is doomed?

“No. I see it reducing over time but not falling off a cliff forever. It has a role for at least the medium-term.”

What is motivating I-Pace customers?

“Principally, a desire to be first. They are evangelical about the experience of an electric car. And the fact we’ve delivered the benefits in a hugely credible, luxurious vehicle that fits into their lives.”

Do you have enough supply of I-Paces to meet demand?

“We’ve had a fantastic start and we’re sold out for six months now, which is probably too great a waiting time. We’re working on that, because we know we need to keep the momentum going; we’re still getting 1000 test drive requests per month, so the interest is there.”

Has JLR been less affected by WLTP certification than some rivals?

“We had our challenges, but we can be proud that we managed them with minimal disruption, yes. The interesting aspect is that plug-in hybrid sales are strong: 40% of Range Rover and 22% of Range Rover Sport orders are opting that way, and we can see potential for further growth. My sense is that the underlying demand is greater than we thought. We see it as a very positive indication that both brands can operate in the electrified space.”

In the turbulent recent market, your figures have actually been quite good. Can you sustain that?

“In a market that has been down, we’ve been reasonably pleased with our performance. Our share has been positive, and looking ahead at the order banks, we’re in a good place.

“We’ve been very active, trying to reignite interest with some incentives in some of the nameplates ahead of model changes. In particular, I think the XE and XF can do more; saloons are still a big sector, even if SUVs are booming. The biggest problem Jaguar has in the UK is accessibility, because people think the entry price will be too high for them. We need to change that perception.

“But the key at the moment is to be in a position to react at the crunch times we see ahead, especially around the Brexit outcome and how that will affect confidence. It’s hard to plan for something you can’t control, but we’re as ready as we can be.”

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