BIRMINGHAM, England -- Lowering emissions is an industry priority and automakers risk turning off the new generation of customers if they don't address environmental concerns, Jaguar Land Rover CEO Ralf Speth said.
"They feel the car industry doesn't understand them anymore," he told the Automotive News Europe Congress.
He said JLR has invested heavily in future technologies, quadrupling its r&d budget and doubling the number of engineers to 8,000 since parent Tata Motors bought the company from Ford Motor Co. seven years ago.
He also said that car buyers continue to shun electric vehicles but that could change with the next generation of battery technology. "Customers are not impressed with it currently," he said.
"Battery technology today is still too heavy, too expensive and the [power] density is too low," Speth said after his keynote speech at the event last week. "As we learned at school, there's this correlation between mass and energy and as long as this is not favorable, even if you recuperate, this is an issue."
Speth's comments come as Tesla Motors Inc. prepares to start deliveries of its Model X electric crossover in three or four months. Meanwhile, sources within JLR premium rival Audi have said the Volks-wagen Group unit would launch an electric crossover by 2018. The German media reported last week that BMW is also working on a model to rival the Model X.
Land Rover is working on alternative drivetrains and has produced a prototype electric Range Rover Evoque, dubbed the Project Evoque E, which is expected to be unveiled as a more developed concept in the coming months.
Speth said the drawbacks of the current EV technology would be alleviated in the midterm, without giving a timetable for the improvements. "The next generation of batteries will be higher density, lower weight and the cost will come down," he said.
Company executives have said JLR wants to double current sales to about 800,000 by 2020, but Speth declined to provide a volume target or a deadline.
To meet higher global demand, JLR opened its first factory in China last year and will add a plant in Brazil. Speth has said the company would build a plant in the U.S., but he declined to provide details.