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Jaguar Land Rover CEO Talks EVs and Demand

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【Summary】He wouldn’t say how many cars the company expects to build this year or when it will reach the one-million per year mark, but he did note the brand built more than 500,000 cars last year.

Original Timothy Healey    Dec 22, 2016 7:33 PM PT
Jaguar Land Rover CEO Talks EVs and Demand

Jaguar Land Rover has experienced ground-breaking growth recently, and CEO Ralf Speth is trying to make sure volume never gets ahead of profits. He spoke about the company's upcoming plans, including plans involving the manufacturing of its upcoming I-Pace EV. The interview took place at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show.

He wouldn't say how many cars the company expects to build this year or when it will reach the one-million per year mark, but he did note the brand built more than 500,000 cars last year.

He also indicated that thanks to having plants in other parts of the world, last year's Brexit vote shouldn't hurt the brand or change its manufacturing strategy.

He also confirmed that Jaguar remains committed to diesel engines in the United States, despite any potential drops in demand following Volkswagen's struggles with emissions cheating.

"About 10 percent of our U.S. sales are diesels. The industry average there is about 3 percent," Speth said.

Speth had been critical of EVs in the past but with the I-Pace on the way, that's clearly changed.

"We try not to talk about things just for the sake of talking. We want to have something to show. Now is the right time to show our idea. We have created the I-Pace from a clean sheet of paper, with a different package and a different design," he told the paper.

He wouldn't put a number on the percentage of EVs on sale by 2025 other than to say it would be "high." He wouldn't even put on a number on it for his brand.

He did say that Land Rover won't be neglected when it comes to EVs.

"We try not to talk about things just for the sake of talking. We want to have something to show. Now is the right time to show our idea. We have created the I-Pace from a clean sheet of paper, with a different package and a different design," Speth said.

Further, he mentioned that the company hasn't yet determined what volume they'd need to get to in order to build their electric motors in-house.

"At the moment, we buy the electric motors, but we have to think what we will do in the future. When you reach a certain volume, it makes sense to build an internal combustion engine in-house, but for an electric motor, it's not as clear at what volume it makes sense. Also, the electric motor is not that complex, so from a production standpoint, it's not a challenge to make."

Speth said that consumer demand is driving the EV market, and that Volkswagen's problems may have helped spur an otherwise stagnant segment.

"It's a move that is driven primarily by the customer. Customers see this type of vehicle as cool and sexy, especially younger customers who, unlike me, are not as interested in the sound of the engine and things like that. They have different interests because they have not grown up with this kind of experience. They are far more open to accept new propulsion systems," Speth said. 

"Dieselgate helped a little bit, but I also have seen a sudden change in public acceptance. People are much more open to this change, therefore, the take rate will increase. The customer will decide what percentage of the vehicles in a carmaker's portfolio will be EVs. I am also sure that customer demand will increase as the recharging infrastructure develops. If the infrastructure can keep pace with customer demand, we will quickly have a high percentage of battery-electric vehicles on the road."


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