The Cat Is Back


Forbes Middle East - - CONTENTS -

Some­where down the line, Jaguar lost its preda­tory in­stinct, but the once-iconic brand is back, boast­ing lux­ury, style and tech­nol­ogy to ri­val Tesla.

When she's not serv­ing her coun­try, Great Bri­tain's Queen El­iz­a­beth II loves driv­ing, of­ten tak­ing mem­bers of her fam­ily for a spin in her Range Rover. The 93-year-old great­grand­mother was re­cently spot­ted out in her green Jaguar too, af­ter at­tend­ing a church ser­vice in Wind­sor. The Queen is usu­ally chauf­feured in state cars on royal oc­ca­sions, but in her own time, she ap­pears to en­joy noth­ing more than get­ting be­hind the wheel of these two English au­to­mo­tive icons.

For Jaguar in par­tic­u­lar, its royal con­nec­tions and dis­tinc­tive styling have al­ways been a hall­mark of the British car­maker. In his cult 1969 movie, “The Ital­ian Job”, Michael Caine's char­ac­ter de­scribed the E Type Jaguar as one of the “three fast cars if any­thing goes wrong.” At that time, Jaguars were among the most beau­ti­ful cars on the road, and for Bruce Robert­son, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Jaguar Land Rover, MENA, they still are.

“They are class-lead­ing, pre­mium British ve­hi­cles—cars that pro­vide a driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence our cus­tomers will feel com­pelled to­ward,” says the MD. “Driv­ing them is a multi-sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence that be­gins be­fore the en­gine even starts.”

But some­where down the line, some­thing went wrong for the Jag. The first bump in the road came when Ford Mo­tors bought the brand in 1990. The Amer­i­can auto gi­ant set out to ad­dress prob­lems of qual­ity, but some­how ended up do­ing the pre­cise op­po­site, pro­duc­ing what crit­ics de­scribed as, “a Euro­pean copy of the Ford Mon­deo with a Jaguar logo on it.”

Af­ter 18 dif­fi­cult years of try­ing to place Jaguar on a par with the likes of Mercedes-Benz and BMW, Ford fi­nally con­ceded de­feat and, in 2008, de­cided to sell Jaguar Land Rover, to In­dia's Tata Mo­tors. The price was $2.3 bil­lion, just half of the sum that Ford orig­i­nally paid. It seemed like a good deal for Tata, but un­for­tu­nately for the In­dian con­glom­er­ate, whose nor­mal prod­ucts are trucks, buses, and eco­nom­i­cal cars, the pur­chase couldn't have come at a worse time. Just a few months af­ter clos­ing the deal, the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis hit, deal­ing a harsh blow to the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try.

To sur­vive in the long run, Tata Mo­tors set out two main ob­jec­tives for its newly

ac­quired Jaguar Land Rover busi­ness: cut costs and in­vest in new prod­ucts to sup­port fu­ture growth. That meant pump­ing around 14% of an­nual rev­enues into re­search and de­vel­op­ment, sig­nif­i­cantly more than the in­dus­try's typ­i­cal av­er­age of 5%. It was a risk, but the strat­egy threw the British brand a life­line.

Yet, for Tata, mere sur­vival was not enough. The only way to right the ship was to of­fer more ef­fi­cient en­gine op­tions and in­tro­duce the first Jaguar SUV: the Jaguar F-Pace. It was an in­stant hit. Named the win­ner of the 2017 World Car of the Year and World Car De­sign of the Year Awards at the New York In­ter­na­tional Auto Show, the SUV alone was enough to place Jaguar back at the heart of the lux­ury ve­hi­cle market.

Jaguar's prod­uct rein­vest­ment strat­egy be­gan to pay off, with sales more than tripling be­tween 2009 and 2017, reach­ing 178,601 units. Since then, Jaguar and Land Rover com­bined sold 578,915 ve­hi­cles in last fis­cal year 2018/19.

The pic­ture isn't all rosy though. Back in June, Moody's In­vestors Ser­vice down­graded the rat­ing of Jaguar Land Rover, partly be­cause of cash flow is­sues re­sult­ing from the com­pany's R&D push, and partly be­cause of sub­dued per­for­mance in China. "The down­grade re­flects Moody's ex­pec­ta­tion that lever­age will re­main el­e­vated and free cash flow neg­a­tive for fis­cal years 2020 and 2021 as Jaguar Land Rover seeks to turn around per­for­mance in China, ex­e­cutes its re­struc­tur­ing pro­gram and con­tin­ues to in­vest in its fu­ture model lineup, in­clud­ing elec­tri­fi­ca­tion", says To­bias Wag­ner, Vi­cePres­i­dent and Se­nior An­a­lyst at Moody's.

The fall­out from Brexit and po­ten­tial tar­iffs in the U.S. add to the pos­si­ble chal­lenges ahead, but it's not all bad news. Moody's also ex­pects the com­pany's re­struc­tur­ing pro­gram and other ini­tia­tives to sup­port prof­itabil­ity im­prove­ments this year, and cash flow gen­er­a­tion was solid in the last quar­ter to March 2019. What's more, sales have been strong, with the Mid­dle East do­ing its part. Jaguar's retail sales in the re­gion rose by 46% last year, while Land Rover re­ported a 13% year-on-year in­crease.

“The re­gion's au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try has faced many chal­lenges over the past year, yet we were able to re­port an im­pres­sive in­crease in an­nual sales due to the con­tin­ued loy­alty and sup­port for the brand,” says Robert­son. For the MD, the Mid­dle East is key to fu­ture growth. From Jaguar Land Rover's Dubai hub, the team pro­vides sup­port to 41 deal­er­ships across 17 re­gional mar­kets, whether through skill build­ing at the Jaguar Land Rover Train­ing Academy, parts sup­ply from a dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter at Jebel Ali Free Zone, or hot weather ve­hi­cle test­ing at the Engi­neer­ing Ve­hi­cle Test­ing Cen­tre.

Be­yond Mid­dle Eastern shores, one of the ma­jor fac­tors be­hind Jaguar's resur­gence has been the

in­tro­duc­tion this year of the Jaguar I-Pace, the com­pany's first pre­mium, bat­tery-electric cross­over ve­hi­cle. The new model has a range of up to 240 miles and can hit 60 miles per hour in as lit­tle as 4.5 sec­onds. This time, the crit­ics have been much more com­pli­men­tary, with ex­perts re­fer­ring to the I-Pace as the “world's first le­git­i­mate Tesla-fighter”.

“It's a car that has set a new bench­mark in the world of lux­ury electric ve­hi­cles,” says Robert­son, adding that the I-Pace was the first model to ever win three World Car ti­tles in the award's 15-year his­tory. “This tells us a lot about the sig­nif­i­cance of this ve­hi­cle to our in­dus­try's progress,” con­tin­ues the MD. To its ad­van­tage, while taste is clearly sub­jec­tive, the I-Pace is re­garded by many as more stylish than Tesla's Model X, and it comes in at $10,000 cheaper too.

David Bai­ley, auto in­dus­try ex­pert and pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Birmingham echoes the resur­gence of Jaguar since its en­try into the electric ve­hi­cle space. “Jaguar as a brand has strug­gled in re­cent years. Its sa­loons like the XE and XF are com­pe­tent per­form­ers but haven't re­ally cut it against the likes of BMW's 3 and 5 Se­ries. Things changed, though, with the ar­rival of a range of sporty Jaguar crossovers, like the F-Pace, E-Pace and all-electric I-Pace.” What's more, says Bai­ley, Jaguar stole a march on its Ger­man ri­vals by get­ting to the market first, and in do­ing so, be­came “the first pre­mium com­peti­tor to Tesla.”

From electric ve­hi­cles to SUVs, the brand has re­gained its lux­ury sta­tus and as it looks to the fu­ture, the com­pany isn't hold­ing back. Jaguar Land Rover is open­ing new fa­cil­i­ties in the U.K., China, Slo­vakia and Brazil, while in MENA, plans are afoot to grow to 62 deal­er­ships across 20 mar­kets by next year. Even at the top of the food chain, the mood is up­beat. In a re­cent state­ment, Jaguar Land Rover's Chief Ex­ec­u­tive, Ralf Speth, out­lined the fu­ture vi­sion: “We will go for­ward as a trans­formed com­pany that is leaner and fit­ter…build­ing on the sus­tained in­vest­ment of re­cent years in new prod­ucts and the au­ton­o­mous, con­nected, electric and shared tech­nolo­gies that will drive fu­ture de­mand.”

Jaguar may have a way to go in claw­ing back its once iconic sta­tus, but rest as­sured, the cat is back.

was ev­ery­where. “It was scary,” says McGrady, re­mem­ber­ing the weight of re­spon­si­bil­ity. “When we would do a state ban­quet, there were huge fruit bowls worth thou­sands and thou­sands of dol­lars and we could only carry one at a time in case we dropped one,” he smiles.

Things rarely got bro­ken. At Buck­ing­ham Palace, fine china is kept in a spe­cial pantry equipped with rub­ber sinks to min­i­mize break­ages and ev­ery­thing is washed by hand—the sil­ver, the plates, the crys­tal glass­ware. Dish­wash­ers? For­get it. “You couldn't risk it. You couldn't put Meis­sen or Royal Crown Derby [china] into the dish­washer. Oh, my good­ness, you couldn't!” McGrady shud­ders. Over his thirty-plus years in the in­dus­try, he has cooked for five U.S. pres­i­dents, the Sul­tan of Brunei and rulers from four of the six GCC states, but the thought of break­ing the Queen's fine china still sends shiv­ers down his spine.

But of course, as a chef work­ing for Her Majesty, life was about more than plat­ing up onto cen­turies-old porce­lain, it was busy and var­ied. First, there were 300 staff to cook lunch for ev­ery day, then they could have any­thing from a state ban­quet with the King of Saudi Ara­bia to an evening when the Queen wished to dine alone. “Other nights Prince Charles would be host­ing a din­ner for 50 peo­ple, the Queen would have a canape re­cep­tion for 200 in an­other room, and Prince Edward would have a group of friends over,” says McGrady. The sheer im­men­sity of the royal es­tate called for flex­i­bil­ity too. “The Queen has 20 chefs who live out of suit­cases. They travel to San­dring­ham, Wind­sor, Bal­moral and Holy­rood House and, when I was there, the Royal yacht Bri­tan­nia wher­ever it was in the world,” he ex­plains, list­ing the royal res­i­dences where he would don his chef 's hat on de­mand.

Yet, be­hind the jet set­ting and cer­e­mo­nial pomp of royal life, there was a qui­eter, pri­vate side to the royal fam­ily, which came with an en­tirely dif­fer­ent set of culi­nary re­quire­ments. Make no mis­take, when Chef McGrady made the 1.5 mile move from The Savoy to Buck­ing­ham Palace, he was trad­ing ho­tel for pri­vate home, and that made a dif­fer­ence where cook­ing was con­cerned. “You're cook­ing in some­one's home, so when the Queen doesn't eat gar­lic, you can't put that in your dishes, it's gone. Sim­i­larly, when she says ‘No, Beef Stroganoff doesn't have pa­prika in it,' then that's that,” he re­marks.

And, the Queen doesn't just de­cide on what's in and out where in­gre­di­ents are con­cerned. Like any other per­son, her wishes where meals are con­cerned are as change­able as the British weather, though she re­port­edly errs on the tra­di­tional side, opt­ing for sta­ple English and French dishes. As McGrady points out, no-one can live eat­ing fois gras and caviar ev­ery night. In fact, dur­ing his time in the royal kitchens, mashed pota­toes or grilled chicken with salad were some­times the or­der of the day.

On the other hand, the monarch's hus­band was a lit­tle more ad­ven­tur­ous. Ac­cord­ing to the chef, the Queen eats to live, while Prince Philip lives to eat and rel­ishes the op­por­tu­nity to try new things. By all ac­counts, their son, Prince Charles, is a foodie too. “When I was there, he was the first high pro­file per­son in the world to go into or­ganic food,” says McGrady. Then there were the younger roy­als. The Queen's grand­chil­dren and other young fam­ily mem­bers would fre­quent restau­rants with friends and re­turn with spe­cial re­quests for dishes they had tried in swanky London eater­ies.

That, how­ever, is where the in­sight into the pri­vate life of the Queen and her clos­est fam­ily ends. Buck­ing­ham Palace is so huge that McGrady would see the monarch per­haps once or twice a year. It wasn't un­til he ac­com­pa­nied them on their trav­els that he'd get to see the royal fam­ily up close, whether that was danc­ing with them at the Ghillies Ball at Bal­moral Cas­tle, or chat­ting with Prince Philip in the kitchens at other royal re­treats.

That said, his re­gal ad­ven­ture was a tale of two, dis­tinct parts: one was the 11 years he spent work­ing for the Queen and the other was the four he spent as chef to Princess Diana. McGrady re­counts how the princess would come down to the kitchens with Wil­liam and Harry al­most daily. If she was on her own for lunch, she'd eat in the kitchen, and her two boys would be in and out

all the time. “I held Prince Harry as a baby while Princess Diana was eat­ing ce­real in the kitchen at Wind­sor Cas­tle,” he says. “I watched them grow up. I did ev­ery­thing from puree­ing fruit and veg­eta­bles for them as ba­bies, to them be­ing 11 and 15 at Kens­ing­ton when they'd come into the kitchen and say ‘can we have pizza tonight?'”

From pizza re­quests to sim­ple sal­ads, one of the lessons that life with the British roy­als taught chef McGrady was the true mean­ing of lux­ury food. As a young chef, he had thought that cook­ing for the rich and fa­mous was all about op­u­lence, but he quickly came to re­al­ize that for Queen El­iz­a­beth II and her fam­ily, 100 lob­sters or caviar in abun­dance were not lux­u­ries. Rather, lux­ury was pro­duce that came from their own gar­dens and es­tates. “The Queen got far more ex­cited about see­ing veni­son on the menu that was from the Bal­moral es­tate, or about see­ing a salmon that Prince Charles or the Queen Mother had caught from the River Dee,” he ex­plains.

One stand-out mem­ory for the chef was go­ing down to the gar­dens at Bal­moral with Princess Mar­garet and pick­ing rasp­ber­ries and blue­ber­ries to have at din­ner that night. Yet, for the stark­est ex­am­ple of lux­ury in ac­tion, McGrady winds the clock back to 1947 and the wed­ding of the Queen and Prince Philip. “It was around war time and they were us­ing ra­tion books to pay for food, even for the Queen's wed­ding,” he ex­plains. She wanted straw­ber­ries, but it was Novem­ber and straw­berry sea­son had passed, so they grew them in the hot­houses at Wind­sor Cas­tle just for the wed­ding. That, says the chef who started out at one of London's top ho­tels, is lux­ury.

Over the decades, McGrady's for­mer col­leagues at The Savoy have also moved on, but he still main­tains ties with the ho­tel— es­pe­cially on royal oc­ca­sions. “I worked on a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Chef McGrady in cel­e­bra­tion of Her Majesty's 90th birth­day,” says Emma Parfitt, Di­rec­tor of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions at The Savoy. “He worked with our ex­ec­u­tive chef at the time to cre­ate a Royal Af­ter­noon Tea at The Savoy…It was hugely suc­cess­ful and we loved work­ing with him.”

Fast for­ward to to­day and the royal in­flu­ence still rubs off on Chef Dar­ren

McGrady. Now a res­i­dent of Dal­las, Texas, he finds noth­ing more lux­u­ri­ous then head­ing out into his gar­den and find­ing just enough fid­dle­head ferns to make a salad for din­ner. His days plat­ing up hand-painted Meis­sen china may be long be­hind him, but his ex­pe­ri­ence at the royal house­hold is never far from his mind—and with a com­pany called Eat­ing Roy­ally, the chances are, it never will be.

The thriv­ing cater­ing busi­ness takes McGrady all over the world run­ning culi­nary events and shar­ing his ex­pe­ri­ences at a range of cor­po­rate and pri­vate par­ties. Christo­pher Ryan, Chair of Tiger21, a mem­bers-only or­ga­ni­za­tion that sup­ports the in­vest­ment com­mu­nity, counts amongst the chef 's sat­is­fied clients. “Chef Dar­ren McGrady is an ex­tra­or­di­nary culi­nary tal­ent and a master sto­ry­teller,” he says. Ac­cord­ing to the en­tre­pre­neur and phi­lan­thropist, McGrady “pairs his first-hand ac­counts of the English Roy­als with out­stand­ing and mem­o­rable meals, cre­at­ing ex­pe­ri­ences his au­di­ences cher­ish for a life­time.”

Hav­ing just re­turned from cook­ing din­ner in Sin­ga­pore, McGrady's next stop is Hong Kong fol­lowed by an event in London. But there's one part of the world that the royal chef is yet to ex­plore: “I'd love to do some­thing in Dubai,” he says. “That's an ex­cit­ing prospect to me.”

The in­tro­duc­tion of the F-PACE, Jaguar's first SUV, placed the brand back at the heart of the lux­ury car market.

The Jaguar I-Pace is touted by some as the first com­peti­tor to Tesla.

Dar­ren McGrady (sec­ond row, sec­ond from left) worked as Royal Chef to Queen El­iz­a­beth II from 1982 to 1993.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.