Steven De Ploey, 43
Global marketing strategy and planning director, Jaguar Land Rover
Family:: Wife, Simone; daughters, Elise, 11, June, 1; sons Maxim, 8, Louis, 6
Born: Antwerp, Belgium
Languages: Dutch, English, German, French
Education: Dual bachelor's degree in commercial engineering, University of Antwerp, Belgium and Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; executive programs at IMD Business School, Lausanne, Switzerland and Duke Corporate Education, London, England
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
I was brought up around cars because my father collected classic cars. I was already polishing chrome and pumping tires at age 3. My first job was at Toyota Europe, where I worked as a product planner. Here I was responsible for the development of the second-generation RAV4. It was the first true urban crossover and the first SUV in Europe that broke the 100,000 sales mark.
What was your big break?
I had two big breaks. My first was at Toyota where I led planning for the second-generation RAV4 at Toyota Europe. That car ended up defining the compact SUV market in Europe and the world. The second big break came at Jaguar. I was involved in the launch of the Jaguar C-X17 concept, which became the F-Pace. This concept gave a glimpse of Jaguar's future portfolio potential by showcasing some of JLR's latest technologies.
Your greatest achievement?
Professionally, it's being part of the resurrection of the Jaguar brand. That includes creating clarity and alignment about the brand with a group of extremely talented designers, engineers, marketing and sales people. It's about working as a team, which has resulted in a set of breakthrough performance cars, such as the F-Pace. I'm very proud that this car was named the 2017 World Car of the Year and also won the World Car Design award. It's only the second vehicle to claim the historic double in the 13-year history of the World Car Awards. Personally, it's raising a family of four wonderful children who each have their very own personalities and interests that I try to nurture.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
The failure to convince Toyota Motor Corp. to reinvest in its own light commercial vehicle lineup even though it obviously fit the brand, made great sense from a business perspective and showed strong interest from markets and suppliers. I learned that a supportive governance, organization and adequate resources are as critical as the business idea itself. If you don't have at least 50 percent of this working in your favor, your chances of success decrease significantly.
What is your current challenge at work?
Balancing the relentless ambition of the company to push forward with more and even better products and the need to sustain growth for those cars that are already on the market.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
The belief that so many people in this industry have that we will continue to flourish as we've always done by following the same path of the last 100-plus years. I believe that over the next 5 years we will see more disruptions than we have in the last 100 years, with many new players entering the automotive arena. That includes dozens of digitally savvy companies that are gradually attacking every part of our value chain.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
It comes down to the 90-10 rule: Everyone is familiar with the 80-20 principle. While achieving 100 percent is clearly unrealistic, 80 percent just feels a bit unambitious. The 10 percent is a constant reminder that it's not only about what you do but also how you do it, thus striving for both effectiveness and efficiency.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
This is the most exciting time in the industry's history to join. Cars are getting more and more embedded and connected into everyday life. Design, technology, marketing, sales and services dealing with mobility have never been more challenging and diverse. That is exciting.
If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
I hope I would continue to do what I already strive to do now: Set out a compelling vision for the company and its brands based on its ambition and capabilities. Win the hearts and minds of everyone on the team, and enable them to embrace and realize this vision and ultimately share in its success.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I love a job where I can combine personal growth with the chance to have a positive effect on the business as it strives to address the world's mobility challenges.
While I'm not sure where that will take me, I try to follow the advice of former Ford CEO Alan Mulally. He said you should not be too focused on the next job. Instead, it's better to do your current job to the best of your abilities and great things will happen.
What do you do to relax?
Not enough, but I do bike and run a bit. However, I mostly spend time with my family and enjoy watching my kids develop their own interests and skills.
What is your pet peeve?
Reluctance to start a new journey because of past experiences.
What was your first car?
A Lancia Dedra, which was stolen the day after I cancelled my comprehensive insurance.
A Jaguar XJR and a Range Rover Sport.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
I would be a Jaguar I-Pace because of its positive take on the future. This car challenges the status quo.
2015-present: Global marketing strategy & planning director, Jaguar Land Rover, Whitley, England
2014-2015: Global brand director, Jaguar, Whitley
2012-2013: Global product marketing director, Jaguar, Whitley
Jan. 2012-April 2012: Director for strategic planning, Toyota Europe, Brussels, Belgium
2010-2011: General manager, long-term strategy & product identity, Toyota Europe, Brussels
2009-2010: General manager, product planning & marketing, Toyota Europe, Brussels
2005-2006: Franchise development manager, Toyota Great Britain, London, England
2004-2005: Cross carline marketing manager, Toyota Europe, Brussels
2002-2004: European launch manager, Toyota Europe, Brussels
1998- 2002: Senior product planner RAV4, Avensis & Avensis Verso, Toyota Europe, Brussels
1997-1998: Cost analyst category manager, Procter & Gamble Europe, Africa and Middle East, Brussels