This has been a year of change for Land Rover, which is now part of Ford Motor Co.'s Premier Automotive Group. Helping to lead the change is Marin Burela, the new director of manufacturing for the Solihull, England, company.
Burela, a 39-year-old Australian, joined Land Rover in July. He has been with Ford since February 1984, most recently on a special development assignment with its US marketing and sales division. He has also held a top executive post at Ford's plant in Dagenham, England.
Burela spoke with Automotive News Europe's Georg Auer about Land Rover's efforts to produce high-quality products and to adjust to its new owner, Ford.
Land Rover has been under British, German and now American control. How can you maintain quality when you have had all those culture changes?
That is a tremendous question. Quality is a never-ending journey. You never quite get there. The moment you think you have it is the moment that you are in trouble.
We will build quality products. The way we are approaching quality is by investing in our people, our facilities. Recently I announced to the organization that we are going to teach employees all the things they need to know about quality operating systems, ergonomics, maintenance, material flow - all the things that are necessary to maintain a high quality product.
We have to adopt a very simple concept: Each station maintains itself. We have to give people the tools, the training, and the facilities to succeed.
What struck me when I joined is the sheer dedication that people have to Land Rover. I am convinced that all of the employees have an unbelievable passion for building and delivering products that the customers want.
Are we competitive in all the things we do? Probably not. Do we all know what we have to do to get there? Most definitely yes. Have we developed a plan how we get there? The answer is yes. Are we confident? Yes.
Will you build vehicles on the Continent to cut costs?
There are several aspects to this question. This year we will produce 177,000 units. With minor adjustments, we will be able to produce up to 300,000 units.
We have no plans to move production out of Solihull. We have to eliminate waste there. We have to educate our people because we see in them the fundamental asset that will deliver the goods.
We have a brand new paint shop in Solihull and we are just installing a brand new press shop that is going to do the pressings for the new Range Rover and the Mini for BMW. So we will be a supplier to BMW and a customer of BMW for the engines.
Our plan for the new Range Rover is to launch it in the latter part of 2001.
What engine will the new Range Rover use?
It will be BMW-sourced. We have no plans to change that. However, we will never make a decision that will deteriorate our trusted marque. We have no immediate plans to change from BMW powertrains to Ford powertrains, but at the same time we will be looking at what could be available for the long term.
Ford is building sport utilities of all sizes. Mazda is producing one. You are producing off-roaders. Volvo is making a crossover sport-utility. There is enormous competition within Ford's Premier Automotive Group. Is that rational?
We build different products for different customer bases and for different markets. We are the only company that provides 4x4 capability across the lines. We are by far the leader in 4x4s.
We maintain that we will clearly continue to be the leader. We are committed to our people and we have just announced the start of a great training program. That has never been done at Land Rover. That is what we need to deliver long-term customer satisfaction.
What can you do to prevent compromising business decisions that could hurt your product?
You have to make decisions based on one basic understanding: What your brand has to achieve. In our case it is simple: It has to be effective, adventurous. It has to have guts to be a Land Rover. Your brand image has to be in the forefront when you design a vehicle. You can't let anything deteriorate your product.
We are taking out costs that are wasteful, not deteriorating customer value. Looking at quality not from our viewpoint but from the customers' viewpoint, we will find enormous opportunities to create efficiencies.
You are increasing production from 170,000 units to 300,000. Where will you find customers?
We will be selling a version of the Freelander with automatic transmission in North America and Japan beginning in 2001. And we will be offering new products in our other markets.
Also, the Defender will have to be more than just a vehicle for farmers and for military applications. We need to provide a lifestyle vehicle with Defender.