The only thing about that, however, is that Japanese makers seem to have mastered that art.
"Well, that's true. If you look at Toyota, the advantage of growing the company organically means you are growing the company with a very consistent set of systems. We, however, have grown by acquisition, and when you do that you buy legacy systems that you can't change overnight. So you have to work your way through that, and start with a business strategy first and back it up with an IT strategy. I would only counter that we have a very strong collection of brands that are very individual and unique and don't compete with the same set of customers. Our unique advantage and challenge is to sustain the uniqueness and individuality of those brands while improving the efficiency through collaboration."
Richard Feast recently talked about how he would ditch Jaguar in favor of Volvo. Do you think that point has any validity or do you take the view--which I agree with--that the key to making money long term in this business is by managing premium worldwide brands for which you can charge a premium?
"You have to consider all the options as a matter of due diligence to your shareholders. Realistically, I would say that that kind of commentary betrays a lack of understanding of the importance of these brands. I would regard that what's going on at Jaguar is a challenge, but to take a short-sighted view and to give up would entail a huge missed opportunity in the long term. We do all respect and admire the Japanese companies--Toyota is a wonderful company that has done very well, but they have done that because they think and they plan very long term. The hybrid technology they bought to market was a more than 12-year journey. We had a similar time frame, but there were a lot of electric cars and then we have been looking at hybrids for about seven years. You cannot be successful in this industry if you are just sort of jumping from fad to fad, and trying to find a quick fix. You have to understand the fundamentals of this industry, work on fixing them, and see things through. The company's financial situation--which I am not allowed to talk about--is sufficiently sound such that there is no reason for us to take anything other than long-term strategic actions, although we obviously have all sorts of short-term operating improvements that can be made. But for us to walk away from a significant opportunity in the luxury segment would be absolutely counter to the long-term interests of the company. Having said that, we have to reduce costs at Jaguar, do some painful but necessary restructuring, and we have got to introduce lots of improved new models. But if we can do that we will make Jaguar successful. One other thing about Jaguar is that we might have owned it a long time, but before the Premier Automotive Group was formed it was a bit of an orphan. Now, we are looking at better collaboration between Jaguar and Land Rover, for instance. As you know, as we looked to replace the BMW engines in the Range Rover we were able to leverage the Jaguar V-8 into that and the LR3 and more than doubled that engine's production. It's a win-win. Look at infotainment systems: they are transportable and can just as easily fit in an aluminum rear-drive Jaguar as a steel front-drive Volvo."
We can understand that, but surely there is a danger that when every luxury car has a Jaguar-derived V-8 in it, you will dilute the brands? Do you think customers are a bit stupid if they don't notice that they can have a more powerful, supercharged V-8 in a Jag than the unblown unit in the more expensive V8 Vantage Aston Martin?
"No, I don't think they are stupid. In fact, I think they are the smartest consumers out there because they have bought our cars! I think that when you drive the new baby Aston you will retract that question. You would never have a clue that the same basic engine came from the same place because they sound and behave and feel so very different. The Aston is a riot: no Jaguar chief engineer would sign off on a car making that noise. I think that we have demonstrated we have a pretty good idea about which parts can be communalized, which parts are tunable, and which parts are unique for each brand. Just look at what we have done with the Focus, S40, and the Mazda 3. Or look at the Aston V-12 engine: how many people remember it was essentially two Duratec V-6 blocks stitched together? And do any customers care?"