Blog : Our future is safe in their hands

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Keith Adams

Range Rover Sport (1)

Apologies for being quiet on AROnline for a little while this week, but I’ve just returned from a couple of days spent with Jaguar Land Rover for the launch of the Range Rover Sport model. As the middle model in its three-car line-up, the commercial success of this model is vitally important to its maker – sales equal profits; profit equals investment; investment equals better products in the future.

Following on from the Evoque and the L405 Range Rover, which both set an exceptionally high bar in the design and engineering stakes, the Sport needs to achieve the same level of brilliance in order to maintain the overwhelming momentum that Land Rover is carrying right now. I doubt it’s spoiling the ending of my upcoming drive story to say that the Sport does not disappoint in the slightest. You’ll have already read all about it all over the Internet. Nary a bad word has been said about the Sport, and with good reason.

My most long-lasting impression of the Sport was that it exceeded all of my expectations effortlessly. It wasn’t any single aspect of the Sport that wins you over – its interior ambience, its performance or its off-road capability – but the sheer breadth of all its abilities combined.

The Sport covers ground quickly and precisely and it’ll stay with a rapidly driven GTI on the most arduous of roads. But beyond that, you can take it off-roading and, just like a Land Rover should, it’ll tackle the roughest tracks with little effort on my part. Alongside me in the passenger seat was ever affable Dave Phillips of Land Rover Monthly magazine and, as we ploughed some reasonably challenging tasks on the second day, I said, ‘it’s all good, but I bet the 1992 Range Rover I’m considering buying could do all this just as easily.’

His answer surprised me. ‘No. The old Rangie doesn’t have the departure or ramp break-out angles,’ he said. ‘Nor does it have the ground clearance or wheel travel. Also, the electronics systems really do work exceptionally well.’ I had to agree with him – sitting there in utter comfort as the Sport drops down a 38 degree muddy slope, with my feet off the pedals as it did all the work, was profoundly impressive – especially considering that I’d been throwing the thing around some U-shaped bends on the A44 in the Cotswolds in a similar, if loftier, manner to a Nissan GT-R, pushing it hard with the throttle just minutes earlier.

Range Rover Sport (2)

Evening, and it was time to chat to one of the Engineers who shaped the Sport. I couldn’t help but gush about the car over a sparkling water, and saw the pride in his eyes as I babbled on about the brilliance of the steering. That’s the thing, listening to his thoughts on EPAS valving and calibration – and the sheer amount of work that this required – coupled with his obvious passion for the subject and skill in implementation, allowed me to warm a even more to Land Rover and enjoy the products of a company that’s shaped by boffins.

Other guys working there – I’ll not name names for fear of embarrassment – have so many interesting tales, it’s very difficult to know where to start. Stories garnered in places such as Canley, Cowley and Longbridge on cars such as the Metro, Maestro and Montego convince me that the legacy of Britain’s best engineering heritage is alive and well within Jaguar Land Rover at Gaydon. They’re in touch with the past, planning the future and utterly focused on Land Rover. It’s in their blood and abundant in the DNA of the cars rolling off the line right now.

It’s also heartwarming to know that these guys – after years of hard times – are now part of a world-beating company building some of the best product money can buy, making the most of budgets that are far less constrained than in the past. It would seem to be that Land Rover’s Designers and Engineers have been allowed to get on with their jobs unhindered by the external distractions encountered in the era of Leyland, British Leyland and Ford ownership – a similarly fertile environment, perhaps, to that which ended up giving us the original Land Rover and Range Rover.

I think it’s clear that the future of the British car industry seems to be safe in Jaguar Land Rover’s hands – the company’s product-led success makes me intensely proud. Well done Land Rover!

Range Rover Sport (3)

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

43 Comments

  1. Britain at its best. Why worry that some half-baked Chinese outfit isn’t selling many of its cheap and nasty MG-badged hatchbacks? Cars like this Range Rover Sport are the future – and it’s Golden.

  2. CLASS. Sheer CLASS.

    It does make you wonder, if SAIC gave the UK Engineers the cash and free reign what they could come up with? I do suspect, though, all the real talent has been at JLR and other manufacturers for some years since the collapse.

  3. “That’s the thing, listening to his thoughts on EPAS valving and calibration – and the sheer amount of work that this required – coupled with his obvious passion for the subject and skill in implementation, allowed me to warm a little more to Land Rover and enjoy the products of a company that’s shaped by boffins.”

    I am glad you are warming a little more to Land Rover and its products, Keith, as this is the company that has, for me, singled-handedly kept alive my passion for British-made cars and optimism for the future of British vehicle manufacturing since the events of April 2005. I have a genuine love for Land Rover’s products and, even when I think they have brought out something that can’t be improved, they always prove me wrong.

    Today’s Land Rover reminds me of the wonderful optimism and brillance of highly-skilled Engineers who were associated with the Rover Company Ltd. back in the early 1960s. Land Rover truly is the spirital successor to the old Rover Company Ltd. and long may their success continue.

    The Range Rover Sport is a great product and I am hoping for similar innovation with the next generation Land Rover Discovery.

  4. Fantastic to hear JLR going from strength to strength. Sadly, no matter how much money I earn, JLR still don’t produce a car that I’d buy.

    I have no need at all for a 4×4 and Jaguar are to flashy and ostentatious. I want something compact of high quality with a better image than the mainstream. A modern R25 would do, perhaps based on the smaller JLR platform.

    Sadly, the only chance of that and of being able to own a car with a British badge, comes from MINI and, eventually, MG.

    It’s still great to see the company finally turning the corner so I quietly hope an opportunity occurs where JLR can bring back Rover, rather than take Jaguar down market in its aim to compete with the Germans.

  5. @4

    Tata is in trouble designing/selling its own brand cars in what we would recognise as Rover Group segments so I wouldn’t be surprised if JLR (if they have enough spare Engineers, which, judging by the number of unfulfilled vacancies now offered to open bid, they may not have) are given the opportunity to sort them out.

    Compare this with Peugeot/Citroen potentially running out of cash (after going mad producing lots of niche Citroen models) and selling out to GM. What is needed for success is competent management able to let employees flourish and get on with their jobs – luckily JLR now seems to have that.

  6. Those that bemoan the state of British car manufacturing best start eating their hats. The UK still designs and builds top-shelf cars that are finding buyers at home and abroad.

    I sometimes think the complainers won’t be happy unless the British car industry starts building flawed cars that no-one buys on an industrial scale…

  7. @6. What depresses people about the British car industry is the wasted potential. However, as JLR shows, if the long-term funding is there for the Designers and Engineers and the company is run competently, the world-class products and ability to make money are there.

  8. What a car! It generally seems to be a superlative all-rounder.

    JLR are a British success story to be proud of with a large (and expanding) British work force producing superb cars exported the world over.

  9. Wait, what…?

    How the hell do you classify a company owned by a company owned by an Indian Zoroastrian (originally from Iran) as a British company?

    Sorry, but there seems to be a disconnect with reality here. Yes, you may be able to say such and such was designed by a British designer (and given that that includes Johnny Ive and iOS 7 Swingers Party Edition, I wouldn’t shout too loud) but designing for Tata doth not a British car make.

    I think they need a new category in the DSM IV – under mental illness for British Leyland Syndrome.. chief symptoms of which are unexplained feelings of love for Austin Allegros – the unshakable belief that China and India are located in the home counties – that former BL companies owned by Martians are still ‘British’ and a nostalgia for Lucas Electrics that borders on paraphilia.

    Unfortunately, there is no cure – a Type 40 TARDIS not being available on the National Health – although there is some evidence buying sufferers a Twin Plenum Vitesse helps…

    Yes, JLR is still going, yes it’s doing well (although the little one still looks like a Disco that got sat on by an elephant) but it’s about as British as the Hindu kush… Stop trying to imply it isn’t the case.

  10. It’s nice to see another great product from JLR – is there no stopping them? It reminds of Jaguar in the 1950s and 1960s when they could do no wrong.

  11. Whinge number 1 waited until 10 comments in. Well done, Jemma.

    And adding to that, where did I describe it as a ‘British company’ in this post? I’d make a couple of suggestions that might help in the future – please read the blog you’re commenting on and then form your opinions accordingly.

    This viciousness is getting bloody tiresome, to be honest.

  12. Well, this is whinge number 2, and it is based on fact, not opinion . The design and engineering may be first class, but yet again, product support – or lack of it – is the potential downfall.

    The wife of a friend of mine, with close connections to Jaguar, has an Evoque, now about 9 months old. It has developed the habit of completely flattening the battery within a few minutes of being left and, after numerous rescues, JLR have decided that it is a CPU which is at fault. Guess what? They are on back order and the car has now been immobile for about 3 weeks. Sorting this type of problem out must be made an absolute priority – all the engineering in the world will be of no advantage if the service is just not present.

  13. Christopher, that’s something else entirely, and fully justified. Who is your friend’s dealer and what have they done to keep his wife mobile? I’m assuming they’ve lent her an equivalent (or better) Evoque while her own is incapacitated?

  14. Well, so what if the parent company isn’t British – that is the nature of the global car industry these days.

    It was designed and built here, has ‘British’ design values and appears to be the polar opposite of the old ‘improvise, bodge and shove it into the marketplace ready or not’ attitude of old.

    Unlike other manufacturers, TATA isn’t protecting its own products, which BMW and Ford did during their ownership, so the company’s Engineers can get on with the job more or less unhindered. It would be hard to conceive of JLR ‘going it alone’, a la LDV vans – which, in the end, had to collaborate to survive and ended up dead in the water anyway not long after the launch of the LDV Maxus (actually not a bad product apart from some irritating traits).

  15. @10: I think the 25,000 (and rising) workforce here in the UK building, designing and engineering these cars (not to mention the associated supply chain) would disagree with you. The majority of input into these cars comes from the UK and not India, so why should they be considered Indian rather than British? If you said that in relation to the MG3 or 6 then I’d think you’d have a point but in products that are pretty much wholly designed, engineered and built here like Jaguar Land Rover’s current products you are simply downright wrong. To be honest, with the size of the workforce (which is expanding), the current feel good factor and the standard of the products, I honestly couldn’t care who owned the company.

  16. It matters a great deal if the parent company is British or not. That determines where the profits go to and where they will be taxed. Less of a problem with JLR but moreso with something like MINI or Nissan is the risk that, in times of crisis, the parent company will move production back to the homeland. General Motors isn’t even German-based and there were noises made about shutting down the hyper-productive and efficient Vauxhall plant in Cheshire just to placate Germany.

    For now, that ship has sailed in the case of JLR. No British company or consortium was willing to step up to the plate when Jaguar and Land Rover were put up for sale at various times in the past thirty years. That’s their loss.

    To be quite honest, Tata is by far the best owner these two companies have had since the 1960s and it’s no surprise that they’re flourishing just as they did in the 1960s. The RRS is a superb vehicle. Every road test I have seen has been complimentary. It looks like a proper class leader in the making.

    Tata Motors isn’t doing so great at the moment so, if a British investor like the guy who just recently acquired TVR wants to get a hold of JLR (the only thriving part of the Tata Motors group) towards the end of this decade, good for them. By that time, JLR could very well be self-sustaining like BMW and Mercedes-Benz currently are, no longer requiring the huge capital investment that necessitates a well-heeled corporate owner like Ford or Tata.

    In the meantime, enjoy JLR’s renaissance. For the first time in decades, there are full ranges of luxury vehicles on sale that were developed and built in Britain and which are not pastiches and no longer have to give cover to inexcusable compromises to competitiveness with absurd claims about “character” and “tradition”.

  17. The quality seems a lot better on latest cars and this surely must be a selling point as the old Disco was notorious for HGF and poor quality.

    I’m glad Jaguar have ditched this obsession with Sixties retro under TATA and are now making highly competent and modern looking cars like the XF.

  18. @ Jemma – Comment 10:

    While I don’t support your comments about Jaguar Land Rover, I am very impressed with your knowledge of the DSM-IV and how you have applied it to this ‘social disease’ we all appear to suffer from.

    I hope I get the chance to meet you one day and talk Clinical Psychology.

  19. Keith @14 : the replacement car offered was ….a Fiesta !!

    A senior Jaguar figure has been involved and even he was unable to achieve a speedy resolution . To be fair this can happen with any car , but with the modern total dependence on electronics it is essential to have all the units readily available

  20. @10. The Czech Republic is (quite rightly) proud of their domestic car manufacturer, its heritage and its bright future.

    Doesn’t seem to bother them in the slightest that it is now owned by a foreign company that once upon a time was controlled by Hitler……
    Ratan Tata’s ancestory has no relevance whatsoever to our British success story. Business now belongs to the world, and JLR are leading the way.
    t

  21. Its funny , Vauxhall has been owned by General Motors in America since the 1920s but I cant ever remember people saying the Wyvern/Cresta/Victor/Viva/Chevette etc werent British cars or moaning that the profits went overseas?

  22. Judging from the past way in which we British treated our manufacturing sector, the worst possible thing that can happen to JLR is for it to come back into British hands.

  23. What’s up, Jemma? So the parent company is Indian? I hardly need to point out here that the investment, design, engineering and production is all taking place in Britain. The board room could be on the moon for all the difference it makes to the Britishness of JLR. Most important of all, Tata has proven itself by far and away the very best, and possibly the only competent, steward of these quintessential brands since the disastrous creation of British Leyland in 1968. It is a pity that my upcoming new car money stretches only to MG territory because, as a long-time Rover flag flyer, my heart lies with JLR.

  24. I love the momentum JLR seem to have at the moment but the reality is their products are all premium and great for a new owners under warranty. Problem is their products’ reputation for reliabilty is no better than the bad old BL days and this seriously is a problem. When you see reliability surveys in the US, Europe and Australasia, Land Rover languishes at the bottom despite assurances that build quality is improving.

    By the time Mr Average can afford a recent Land Rover product, he will need lots of excess cash to keep it going. I know after a Disco 3 purchase, air suspension problems, ECU problems excess tyre wear – the list goes on. So why can’t they make a reliable product? Is it in the design, the engineering or build? My Puma Defender’s diff has just expired at 50,000km and they have been making these for ever, so why the failure? The new products look great but…

  25. I agree 100% Warren.

    My desire to see JLR move forward as the direct descendant of our illustrious car building past is beyond doubt. However, playing ‘Devil’s Advocate’, is there any substance to my nagging doubt that the current JLR range is still living off the fat (in technology terms) of Ford investment and that, one day, this will all have to be replaced and it is at that point we can only fully judge Tata?

  26. Good stuff. I hope the gaazillions they make from the Sport lets them spare enough for a BMW 1-Series rivaling Jag. I’d buy one tomorrow if it was available.

  27. For around twenty five years I have owned Jaguars, buying them new or nearly new.
    To date I have owned three XJ40s, one X308 and I currently drive an X-Type.
    From what I hear modern Jaguars are much improved over older examples. I do not care in slightest which company owns who, if my car starts when I turn the key.

  28. I think whinge no1 started at no1. A good news story once again blighted with the usual MG/SAIC comparisons.

    So JLR is an Indian company,a country like an over populated scrap yard-you would be forgiven for thinking a comment like that would be awash on anything to do with JLR,let alone a Chinese company.

    Think about how stupid the average person is,and realise that half of them are stupider than that. I regularly think this reading some of the tiresome,boring and ill informed conjecture and nonsense posts on here, so its ok for a company to have owners from a second world country and not China?

    There are lots of sites popular for trolls and fools, general thinking on this site errs on car enthusiasm.

  29. Jemma @10
    I think they need a new category in the DSM IV – under mental illness for British Leyland Syndrome.. chief symptoms of which are unexplained feelings of love for Austin Allegros – the unshakable belief that China and India are located in the home counties – that former BL companies owned by Martians are still ‘British’ and a nostalgia for Lucas Electrics that borders on paraphilia.
    Jemma – are you referring to material on another blog? Are you sure your reading and responding to the same item?
    I think one of the really great things about this website is being able to read considered, well thought out and developed posts that illustrate so many differing and valid points of view. Frenzied rantings (indicating that one is being shouted at) somehow detract from that pleasure (in my view).

  30. I get a little annoyed when British cars are slagged off big time,yet the rubbish France and Italy produce are almost ignored. I have a friend at work who has a Renault Megane, which is a money pit that has cost her hundreds of pounds at every MOT and whose electricals go wrong at every opportunity. Renault is a French British Leyland, but without a dealer on every corner, since half of them have packed in as the cars are complicated rubbish.

  31. yme402, it’s now 5 years since the Tata takeover. With every step, from XF to XJ to Evoque to Range Rover to F-type to Sport, we are moving further and further away from Ford influence. Most agree that JLR have been continually going from strength to strength, and were they just living off Ford fat, I’d expect the opposite to be happening as time goes by.

    As for the accusation that there are those who blow kisses at JLR (Indian-owned) while denigrating MG (Chinese-owned), I hardly think it is necessary to point out to readers of this site the difference between the two British operations.

  32. The new RR Sport is a really good car, the only drawback being the ‘footballer car’ image of the old model!

    It will be fascinating to see what the new Wolverhampton engines are like, as the company has no recent history of producing engines in that size, having used Ford 4 cylinder engines since the Ford takeover. I imagine that some of the Rover engineers that designed the T and K series engines are still around, which may or may not be a good thing 🙂

  33. Cringe-worthy bling-tastic mobile WAG palaces, without even a hint of class. Woeful reliability compared to pretty much all of their rivals.

    Sorry but I can’t see much to be proud of, to be honest.

  34. The speed of launch of the RRS after the RR is encouraging. I don’t really care who owns JLR, so long as they continue to contribute to employment in, and valuable exports from, this country. Not to mention their contribution to R&D: the C-X75 must be the sexiest “green” (blue?) car on the planet.

  35. Yes, Rhe Rover CompanY still produces cars in the old Rover factory and still sells to the same customers – royalty, armed forces,celebrities, professionals, etc, they just don’t make 4-dr saloons these days!

    The Rondas were really Austin replacements the only pity is that there is no genuine British-flavoured small/medium sized car available today.

    As for JLR being a foreign company? By the same (rather silly)reasoning, DAIMLER-BENZ AG can only be classed as 1/3 German…

  36. @Auntie Ian

    Daimler AG Shareholder profile

    by Ownership

    Institutional investors: 69.1%
    Private Investors: 20.2%
    Kuwait Investment Authority (Kuwait): 7.6%
    Renault (France): 1.54%
    Nissan (Japan): 1.54%

    by Region 35.9% Europe (excluding Germany), 33.3% German, 19.5% United States, 7.6% Kuwait, 3.3% Asia, 0.4% Others.

    The Renault-Nissan tie up is interesting, has already lent itself to a Mercedes rebadged Kangoo, the next generation Smart / Twingo, Infinitis and murmurs of a Renault range topper (that inevitably the UK would never see).

    Of the Rondas, the XX worked well as it gave Honda a foot into the Luxury sector (and kickstarted the Acura luxury brand in the US) and spawned a quality SD1 replacement. The facelift models were very classy, often spied dropping off cabinet members in Downing St.

    I sometimes wonder what-if, with the current Accord being a quality car and doing well in reliability surveys, it just lacks an image (something Rover was starting to gain around the early 90s) and the Japanese exchange rate doesn’t help matters (a Longbridge assembly line might’ve helped here – worked well for the post-98 Accord).

  37. Yes, it’s likely that Honda would’ve increased it’s shareholding in Rover without taking over, which might have worked out nicely, if Rover’s designers had been allowed more freedom than they were with HHR. wonder how LR would’ve developed in such a scenario?

    Imagining that was the likely path for Rover, i was overjoyed when BMW took over, thinking we’d see proper Rover designs being churned out of Longbridge… incredible the German’s made such a mess of things, even more incredible that in the aftermath, the British motoring press never whispered a word to suggest BMW had any fault in the ensuing disaster?

  38. @auntie Ian

    “even more incredible that in the aftermath, the British motoring press never whispered a word to suggest BMW had any fault in the ensuing disaster?”

    If you turn the first few pages of a motoring publication and see who is financing the 2 page spreads, then correlate that to column space used for rehashing press releases, and review scores, you get to see who the *real* paymasters of the UK media are….

  39. @31 Glenn

    The French manufacturers are in terrible trouble, with very poor sales, and finances, especially PSA. Top Gear have been slating Peugeots for their styling and electrics for year, don’t think they’ve got away with anything…

  40. There are rumours that the Peugeot family have agreed to a possible sale of PSA Peugeot-Citroen to GM.

    The next gen Zafira / 808 / C8 are all shared platform, and there were murmurs of an Insignia / C5 / 508 share…

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