Confusion as Land Rover boss quits
Published 26/01/2010 | 05:00
The future of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) was thrown into confusion yesterday after the British boss of the UK's biggest carmaker parted company with its Indian owners.
JLR boss David Smith also announced he will depart the company.
Talks between union bosses and JLR stalled following a failure between the two parties to reach an agreement over workers' pay and conditions.
But the company -- now part of Indian group Tata Motors -- said Mr Smith's exit was not linked to the breakdown of discussions.
A spokesman said: "We are disappointed the discussions ended without agreement, but his departure is not linked to the talks."
Mr Smith, a veteran of the British motor industry who oversaw the sale of the business from Ford to Tata Motors, is leaving the company shortly.
He is being replaced, at least in the short term, by Tata's Ravi Kant, who has been a director of JLR.
A brief statement thanked Mr Smith "for his efforts in the role and for his services to Jaguar and Land Rover".
Only recently he was making bullish noises about JLR's recovery, predicting Jaguar sales would jump 50pc to top 100,000, but the workforce has been unnerved by plans to close the final salary-pension scheme to new members and reduce pay rates for newcomers by 20pc.
The Indian owners have wrestled with a series of problems at JLR since paying Ford $2.5bn (€1.76bn) almost 18 months ago for two of the best-known brands in the motor vehicle industry. They have ranged from a recession-driven slide in sales to a series of tough negotiations with Peter Mandelson, the British business secretary, over British government support.
JLR lost £349m at the operating level in its last year under Ford ownership, with Land Rover accounting for £308m of the total.
The latest figures show JLR made operating profits of £45m in the third quarter last year, but overall last year Jaguar sales were down almost 30pc to 55,000 and Land Rover by 25pc to 140,000.
Mr Smith (48), who joined Ford 26 years ago, moved to JLR nine years ago. He is identified with trade and academic institutions in the British Midlands.
Tata has reduced the JLR workforce by 2,000 to 14,000, and plans to close one of its two remaining Midlands plants, Castle Bromwich or Solihull, the original Land Rover home.