It’s Tata to the past
Jaguar Land Rover embraces the future, writes PAUL GOVER
FIRST it was 600 new staff. Now it’s a new vision for the future. Things are changing, and changing fast, for Jaguar Land Rover under its new ownership by Tata of India. It is recruiting 600 engineering specialists across the two brands and has opened a Virtual Reality Centre in Britain to help design the cars of the future. Such a huge financial commitment points to a solid future, perhaps even including the goahead for a born-again E-Type Jaguar to sell alongside the forthcoming baby Land Rover LRX city car. JLR is now divorced from Ford, which sold it to Tata when the late Geoff Polites was running the operation and leading it back into significant profit for the first time in 10 years. ‘‘There is a fair bit of liberation there. Our senior people are walking around with their chests thrust out,’’ says the head of JLR Australia, David Blackall, who has just returned from head office in Britain. ‘‘It’s a big recruitment drive. Most of the emphasis is on new technology and sustainable energy. We’ve basically been given the brief that . . . we’re trying to build for the future. It’s about as upbeat and positive as I’ve seen it for a long time. ‘‘It’s all about sustainable technologies. When you make fairly large, off-road-capable vehicles, you need a way forward in a reduced-carbon world.’’ Blackall reports strong sales in Australia since the arrival of the latest Jaguar XF, the make-orbreak model for the brand. ‘‘XF on the Jaguar side has begun brilliantly. We sold our program in June for the best month for Jaguar in about four years,’’ he says. ‘‘We have a little more supply and will sell 400 to 450 Jaguars to the end of the year.’’ In Britain, the Virtual Reality Centre is the key to the cars, which will follow the XF, the forthcoming XJ flagship and the LRX. The centre cost more than $5 million and is intended to cut new-model development times. JLR claims it is the most advanced of its type in the world and allows designers and engineers to interact with life-size, three-dimensional models. The system reduces the need for physical prototypes, saving time and money. It uses eight Sony high-resolution projectors to produce 3D images for staff, who wear special glasses that give them a picture four times as clear as a high-definition television.