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CIO Jeremy Vincent hunts down an exciting future at Jaguar Land Rover

Mark Chillingworth | Feb. 7, 2013
The night before we meet Jeremy Vincent, CIO of luxury car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover there had been a technological problem on one of the production lines. For any CIO and any manufacturer this is an issue, but for this British manufacturing institution the enormity of the problem is amplified because around the world there is a hunger for its products akin to that of the big cat which Jaguar is named after.

"We have to recognise the consumer pattern for smaller, more fuel economic and environmentally friendly vehicles and I think we have done a good job on cars like the new Range Rover," he says of the vehicle launched in September 2012 that now uses a 100 per cent aluminium chassis, removing half a ton of weight from the model it replaces and thus using a smaller, more fuel efficient engine with no loss in performance.

Vincent also believes that JLR has matured from an organisation that has always been feted for engineering excellence to one that is also focused on the 'vagaries' of the market and consumer aspirations. For the CIO and his business leadership peers, that has meant enabling JLR to feed those vagaries back into the production cycles to meet the changing needs of customers. The launch of all-wheel-drive XF and XJ saloons will create market opportunities in North America where it's said that 90 per cent of cars sold have all-wheel drive.

Turning it round

US vehicle manufacturer Ford sold JLR in March 2008 to Tata in a £1.15bn deal that was less than Ford paid for the two brands. Land Rover was profitable, but Jaguar was not, and the following recession didn't make life any easier for the manufacturing world.

"In the year 2009 to 2010 I had almost no budget for strategic and tactical growth, but for the year 2012/13 it is a very different picture," Vincent says. "2009 was a horrible year and Tata really helped us with major support."

Vincent joined in 2008 to take the CIO steering wheel just as JLR split from Ford. CIO headhunter Alan Mumby called Vincent with two roles he had on his books -- the Hydrographic Office or JLR.

"That's the job for me," was the CIO's response and nearly four and a half hard years later he is still in Coventry and clearly enjoying the high-geared pace.

"I knew what to expect when I joined. One thing that I have noticed is that there is a lot in common between manufacturing and FMCG or other sectors," he says of his previous roles with EMI Music and Allied Domecq.

"The IT needs to consolidate and most big international companies have arrived at a point where they are carrying massive islands of technology, so they have too much knitting. The sale agreement imposed certain restrictions: for the most part it would be a clone of the Ford systems recreated in our own domain. In the summer of 2008 there probably wasn't a weekend when the teams at Ford, JLR, Fujitsu, IBM were not pulling a suite of applications out of Ford. We had 11 groups of applications being brought out.


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