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Opinion: Bollore's exit from JLR not a complete surprise


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Thierry Bollore
Bolloré's departure was attributed to "personal reasons"
Jaguar Land Rover CEO bows out after implementing a ground-up reinvention plan

Earthquake events like a Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) chief quitting come as almost unbelievable shocks at the moment they’re announced, but the departure of CEO Thierry Bolloré “for personal reasons” has reportedly not been a complete surprise to some members of the inner circle. There have been rumours swirling about for several months that something like this might happen.

The suggestion has been that Bollore’s wasn’t getting on especially well with his big bosses at Tata, and that his “professorial” style of management wasn’t going down well with the senior management teams who are hell-bent on putting put his brave plan for Reimagining Jaguar – his term – into practice. Big decisions, say the rumours, have been slow in coming.

Worse, there are suggestions that the Bolloré plan and its progress aren’t playing too well with major suppliers, who must invest huge sums in it to make it fly, this despite recent protestations from within JLR that things were proceeding ahead of schedule. 

Rival company bigwigs are always polite about one another in public – and, after all, Bolloré has had previous big jobs in the motor industry and knows his way around it – but there have been times when those of us who are reporters on the Autocar team have noticed a degree of eye-rolling from those in parallel jobs when the notion of re-founding Jaguar as a Bentley-esque EV brand, ready to launch its first new model in 2025, comes up.

It’s easy to imagine that the Covid hangover, the ongoing chip shortages, the impending global financial downturn and the anxiety of highly invested dealers might well have holed SS Reimagine below the water line. Bolloré’s job has indisputably become much harder in his 28-month tenure 

God speed, then, to Adrian Mardell – the JLR lifer and finance boss who has never previously come over the horizon as a car guy – with his mission to pick up the pieces. Insiders call him a pragmatist and “a good bloke” but the required next steps look daunting indeed.

What now? When faced with difficulties in the recent past, JLR has often hunkered down and said as little as possible. This has been Bolloré’s style, but it won’t work this time. The future of Jaguar is going to be a point of national discussion, and it won’t stop soon. This company, a national asset and flag-bearer, is going to be in urgent need of a prominent, convincing, charismatic leader in whom JLR’s huge and highly creative workforce can have confidence.  

Failing this, a they’ll-have-to-sell-it view is bound to gain rapid traction, with all the factory closure, production shrinkage and workforce reduction stories that will surely follow. What JLR says in the next day or two, and exactly who says it, has never been more critical.

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