Interview Transcript

Moving on to looking at the end game, what's the cost and time penalty to shifting to steel architecture if it's more competitive?

That would be extremely difficult and expensive. You'd basically have to start again. I think it's something they're going to have to live with. Incidentally, with electric vehicles, this is probably the right approach, because you need that sort of structural weight offset for the weight of batteries.

The strategic decision was a long term one. These architectures, as designed, would last for two cycles of product which effectively is 14 years. Therefore, you could argue that we’re still in the first cycle. There was a penalty to be taken that would be regained later, in terms of the benefits when weight became really critical from having strict regulations. You could argue that is still the case. The trouble is that we haven't got to the end of the first cycle before the financial difficulties have really started to hit. I don't see any reversion to steel for those vehicles, and it certainly wouldn't make any sense for the big vehicles.

The EV architecture can be built on aluminium?

The I-Pace, for instance, is an aluminium structure. The problem they have is, it’s an aluminium structure, therefore it can use the same processes, but the design has to be different. One of the challenges that JLR now have is the fact that these architectures, that were clearly intended to last two cycles of vehicles, are now having to be re-engineered for the second part of the cycle, in order to better accommodate the level of electrification.

The large Range Rovers accommodate it, to some extent now, that's why we have already got a plug-in hybrid Range Rover Sport, because that architecture was designed for electrification. But, as you come to the smaller vehicles, they really weren't, and therefore, that is going to have to be changed. I guess I’m saying that in the manufacturing process, body construction can now be retained and could well be advantageous in the next cycle, but you're going to have to do a lot of engineering.

So what are the next steps going forward for JLR?

I think in some ways the disruption of the market, because of electrification, could actually be the one thing that is to JLR’s advantage. They've clearly got a head start with I-Pace, which seems to have had a really good reception. They've clearly now got the knowledge to expand on that. The problem is that it was only designed for relatively low volume production, which is understandable because it was a gamble. It was also effectively outsourced for assembly by Magna. The challenge now will be to quickly bring in-house that technology in the hope that that will give them a lead, because of their manufacturing processes, having already translated into aluminium, when other manufacturers are going to be perhaps more challenged to do that because of the level of investment. That will be the competitive advantage.

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