Jaguar Land Rover shines, but is the electric car the star?
As a 110m steeplechaser, Colin Jackson was adept at splendidly overcoming barriers.
It was fitting therefore that the former world record holder was Master of Ceremonies on Tuesday for Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) as the lavishness car maker revealed two more new models – the sporty Jaguar XKR-S and a prototype diesel hybrid Range Rover – at the Geneva Motor Show.
JLR is a revitalized company. Carl Peter-Forster, boss of parent company Tata Motors, spoke on Tuesday of a new manufacturing facility in India, the Jaguar and Land Rover brand directors hinted at thrilling new product ranges, and Ralf Speth, the JLR chief executive, long-established the company was hiring 2,500 new workers in the UK to meet booming demand across the world.
Just two years ago, JLR was asking the Government for financial aid, now it is close to making annual profits of £1bn.
Jackson’s presence, intended to add some razzmatazz to the press conference, highlights the new confidence in the company.
Ratan Tata, watching next to a packed crowd, smiled throughout. The questions about his $2.3bn (£1.4bn) acquisition of JLR in 2008 have faded.
JLR’s achievement has helped to build an electric mood in Geneva, with other British-based manufacturers at the centre of it. Not only are there a vast array of new low carbon vehicles, but there is a buzz among farm out.
There are more people at the show and more new cars being revealed, a sign of the returning investment in the industry. As well as JLR, Rolls-Royce revealed its first electric car while Nissan’s low-carbon drive has its Sunderland plant at the centre and Toyota, focusing again on new models rather than a recall crisis, is state publicly that one in five cars it sells in the UK by 2012 will be hybrids.
However, behind closed doors, there are also murmurs of anxiety.
Doubts remain about whether consumers will in fact pay for electric cars, while companies complain of rivals offering hazardously high discounts to grab market share in Europe, and raw material costs are tall. The dark days of 2009 are over, but there are still many snag car makers must overcome.