aguar has had a long and distinguished history, and this fascinating 224-page book by Sir John Egan focuses on a crucial period for the marque. But when you read it, you have to wonder how William Lyons’ baby kept going through the ’70s and ’80s.
After a period with GM — but not wanting to live in Detroit — Egan joined the British Leyland Motor Corporation in 1971. His first company car was a TR6, and BLMC had 43 car plants. After a number of moves, including making a success of the Unipart business, Egan was appointed as CEO of Jaguar in 1980 and walked into a strike over pay rates on his very first day.
That kind of set the scene for the new job: gradually, productivity and quality were turned around, but it was a relentless and often difficult task. Egan gives the broad picture of the company’s struggles with the unions (particularly the shop stewards), his good relationship with Sir William, model development
such as the initial problems with the AJ6 engine, negotiations with possible partners, the endless frustration with suppliers, striving to increase productivity and quality and to motivate the dealers, racing with the XJ-S, and later achieving a Le Mans victory, as well as the political background to the period.
At the same time, the author provides the sorts of details that only someone involved at the core of it all would know. So, you’ll find out that man hours per XJ6 were reduced from 700 to 300 over a five-year period; it cost only four pence (nine cents) to replace door handles with ones that wouldn’t lose their coating; for some time, red, yellow, and white were the only colours that XJ6S could be painted, and the lead used in their construction used to melt; Jan Lammers had to disguise the loss of all gears except fourth as he drove his Jaguar to victory at Le Mans; and Sir John engineered the firing of his own board chairman! There’s lots more fascinating stuff like this.
Having guided Jaguar towards greater independence, Egan then had to deal with the possibility of partnering with, or being purchased by, other companies. GM came close, but, eventually, Jaguar joined the Ford fold. Although he admits the Blue Oval had some positive effects on Jaguar, Sir John clearly believes the current Tata ownership is a far better arrangement. This is an important story, well told by someone who was at the heart of this crucial time for Jaguar. It is well worth reading!