08 JULY 2020
Following his induction into the 2015 Automotive Hall of Fame in Detroit, Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus – Tata Sons and th…
Following his induction into the 2015 Automotive Hall of Fame in Detroit, Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus – Tata Sons and the architect of Jaguar Land Rover’s remarkable renaissance, talked to us about his continued pride in the company’s workforce, the importance of the U.S. market and maintaining the momentum.
Last month you joined Penske founder and Chairman Roger Penske, and former Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo in being inducted into the 2015 Automotive Hall of Fame. How was the experience?
I considered it a very special and significant honor, and something I never expected. These are the things in life that please you and make you feel elated. Being inducted alongside Roger Penske and Luca only added to the importance of the accolade.
Since Tata Motors acquired Jaguar Land Rover back in 2008, sales have doubled, new factories have opened, 20,000 new employees have been taken on, and more than $16 billion has been invested in product creation. How does this remarkable turnaround make you feel?
Personally I am very, very proud of what we have achieved at Jaguar Land Rover, though I cannot take too much of the credit. It is the people at JLR who have turned the company around. In the beginning, morale was down and people were uncertain of their future with Jaguar Land Rover. There were also fears that Tata would likely close one of the three UK plants, and maybe even close everything and move all operations to India. All I did was ensure them that these were erroneous rumors and encouraged employees to focus on working shoulder-to-shoulder to rebuild these two venerable brands, which is exactly what they did. Today, I’m proud to say that our three UK factories are working seven days a week struggling to meet demand for our products.
One of the first things you did after acquiring Jaguar Land Rover was fly to the U.S. and tour the country talking to dealers. Why was this so important?
To me, the U.S. has always been the bellwether of the global auto industry. Look at the attention that Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi give to North America. At the time, I got the sense that while the U.S. was one of our largest markets, it was being ignored in relative terms by the organization. I needed to know what the dealers thought about the business and what they needed. We rented a plane, met up with them and gave them the chance to speak frankly. We did that three years in a row.
They must be happier now with so much new product on the way.
Jaguar retailers will have the redesigned Jaguar XF later this year, while next year sees the introduction of the all-important XE sports sedan and F-PACE performance crossover. This year, Land Rover retailers received the new Land Rover Discovery Sport and an updated Evoque to build on the success of Range Rover Sport and Range Rover. I know from my experience in India selling electronics and cars, often, the sales people tell us they need the equivalent of everything the competition offers. It is not always possible, but by 2016 I hope our U.S. dealers will be happy with their portfolio, and feel that we are on the right path.
Is there one model in the current Jaguar Land Rover portfolio you are most proud of?
While I feel passionately about all our products, I would have to say the Jaguar F-TYPE holds a very personal place in my heart as it is something I pushed through the company. When we acquired Jaguar, there was no true sports car in the model line-up and nothing in the future plans. My feeling was that Jaguar had such a rich racing heritage and a tradition of building great sports cars. We needed to re-create the image of Jaguar, once again, by building beautiful, fast cars. I think we achieved that with the F-TYPE.
After you retired in 2012, you re-invented yourself by becoming a key investor in 12 or so new Indian start-ups. What is your strategy here?
I have always been energized by young people with sharp young minds and entrepreneurial sprits. By using my personal funds, I could encourage and support those who I felt had a great idea. Companies like Urban Ladder that is selling furniture on-line to young people and Ola, which competes with Uber in India; I’m fascinated by the passion and intelligence of its founders. While mine are token investments, it is exciting to see that some of the big players in China and Japan have taken notice of our involvement and have now also invested.