Jonathan Browning has a tough act to follow. He is charged with leading Jaguar Cars Ltd. into the future after his predecessors Bill Hayden and Nick Scheele rescued the company and brought it to prosperity under the sheltering wing of Ford Motor Co.
Jaguar racked up a record sales year in 1998 and broke that record again in 1999.
Much more is planned. A third factory, in Halewood, England, is coming on line during the next 18 months, and with it a third model, known as the X400 or 'Baby Jaguar.' That car and the new S-type have to produce a fourfold increase in Jaguar sales.
Browning, who took over as managing director last year, was interviewed by Automotive News Europe's Bradford Wernle at Jaguar's headquarters in Coventry, England. Scheele, Hayden, John Egan and William Lyons, the legendary founder, previously occupied Browning's corner office. Lyons looks down upon Browning from a portrait on the wall, and Browning now sits at Sir William's desk. Edited excerpts of that interview follow:
You've got big shoes to fill. Do you find that daunting?
They are big shoes in terms of following Nick (Scheele) and some strong leaders of the Jaguar organization. But I haven't felt that it is daunting. To me, there's such a strong sense of shared commitment in this organization to build Jaguar and develop it. You don't feel it rests on your shoulders alone. There is a very, very strong sense of unity here. At no point have I felt, `OK, Browning, you're on the spot here.' It's part of a group.
How did you learn you would get the job?
I think I was in the garden playing with the kids.
Who called you?
It was Jac (Ford Chief Executive Jac Nasser).
Were you surprised?
It's not the sort of thing that happens every week. But to say I was delighted is probably a typical British understatement. There wasn't a whole lot of thought required to respond. Even my wife, who had just managed the refurbishment of a house and was looking forward to enjoying the fruits of her labors, understood the need to say yes to this opportunity.
How is your relationship with Wolfgang Reitzle, chairman of Jaguar and of Ford's Premier Automotive Group?
We're still in the process of evolving how we work together as the Premier Automotive Group (Volvo, Lincoln, Jaguar, Aston Martin and Mercury). If I talk about how Wolfgang and I interact personally, it's by telephone. Wolfgang has a tremendously demanding travel schedule. He's trying to maintain a focus on each of the business units. In an ideal world, he would like to spend the best part of a week with Jaguar each month. He tries to commit a significant period of time each month to Jaguar. We as the Premier Automotive Group meet periodically to talk about group-wide issues.
Does the recent reorganization at Ford, returning to local business units, have an effect on Jaguar?
When Ford acquired Jaguar, Jaguar was in a situation where it needed to take a lot from Ford in terms of manufacturing quality. I think Jaguar clearly benefited from those processes: its ability to focus and to adapt and implement some of those processes and do that in the context of a clearly defined business unit.
In some senses you can argue this latest evolution of Ford is modeled on how Jaguar operates as a clearly defined business unit that is customer facing. At Jaguar, there's a very strong focus on what consumers need and how to deliver that. Jaguar needed to import a lot from Ford Motor Co., but its now in a position where it's almost a two-way street. These business units have evolved in some senses in the same way Jaguar has evolved and is operating.
Jaguar will return to racing next season. What effect will that have on the organization?
Jaguar racing is going to be a separate entity. They have to operate in an extremely focused way with cycle times of two weeks. We're looking to integrate a number of aspects between our engineering, public affairs, and sales and marketing operations. We've set up a mechanism where we have a weekly steering group between the racing team and the overall organization.
In terms of what we're trying to get from Formula One, the high levels of exposure Formula One gets provides a tremendous opportunity to get further exposure for the Jaguar marque across the globe. Jaguar has the cache of being very much associated with wood and leather, but perhaps not so much with technology. I think there's a lot of technology embedded in our products that isn't always recognized. If you talk about voice-activated controls or adaptive cruise control -those things are in our products already.
At another level, it gives us an opportunity to expose our engineers to different types of engineering activities and environments to help hone their skills and produce a crossover between mainstream and racing organizations. The engineers can learn about rapid cycle times.
What is Jaguar's position regarding the UK's (lack of) participation in the single European currency?
We have consistently said we believe that there is value in the UK participating in the euro zone - entering the euro system at the right time under right conditions. If we were to enter at today's exchange rate, that would be problematic. But we support the basic principle. We believe it facilitates cross-border trade.
Will you continue to need three factories?
I see the three sites as part of a more integrated system. It's not three independent islands of manufacturing, engineering and production. It's much more a single, integrated system. We need to make sure we use our fixed cost base.
Halewood gives us the opportunity to grow Jaguar further. There aren't many vehicle manufacturers in the world that have engineering and production facilities in the footprint we have. Even with Halewood (in northwest England) it's pretty concentrated. That's a pretty small geographic footprint.
Do you ever see the possibility of substantial sharing of components between a Volvo and Jaguar product?
From the component or from the system architecture point of view, we believe there is opportunity to share some elements. The user interface will always remain distinct. The needs of the Jaguar customer are different to the needs of a Volvo customer. Premier Automotive Group is a mechanism to achieve the dichotomy in the luxury vehicle sector. How do you get scale and differentiation at the same time? PAG as a collection of marques gives us an opportunity to maintain differentiation and to support a strong revenue position in the market and selectively give us the scale to move down the cost curve.
Have you talked much with Volvo Chief Executive Tuve Johanesson?
We talk on a number of issues. I think the whole Volvo organization is looking to again be part of an exchange of information on how best to manage the integration (into Ford). Jaguar could share some learning with Volvo on how best to manage that transition. So there's quite a bit of learning going on across the organization. It's not a one-way street.
We're interested in learning what Volvo has to offer us and other parts of Ford Motor Co. It's a dialogue - not just sending messages.
Any talks at this point about retail synergies between the two brands?
We've said we'll look for opportunities to achieve common ownership of the dealer network. If Jaguar has an open point, we would look at a Volvo dealer to potentially fill that and vice versa. We do see opportunities for some common ownership. But at the same time, we keep a very strong focus on the customer exclusivity of experience. What we're not talking about is simply blending together retail networks or individual retail outlets.
Do you feel William Lyons' eyeballs staring into you as you sit here at his desk?
(Laughs) I do feel Sir William's desk on my knees. My knees seem to come up higher than his did.
Ford has now owned Jaguar for 10 years. What is the future potential of the company?
The first 10 years were about fixing the fundamentals, transforming the company to get a foundation for growth and starting down the first steps of that growth path. The next 10 years are all about fulfilling the potential of Jaguar in the global marketplace. Jaguar as a global automotive presence is much bigger than the actual company is today.
Our task is to really grow the company to catch up with people's image and perception of the scale of Jaguar's presence in the global market. It's really fulfilling the potential of the company.