On the product front, the hugely profitable Range Rover now has to contend with ultraluxurious SUVs from Bentley and now Rolls-Royce.
Speth, speaking to Automotive News in March on the sidelines of the New York auto show, said the company is committed to growing annual sales to 1 million vehicles, but there is no deadline. Making money, Speth said, is more important than chasing volume.
"We have to make sure we are very profitable. It is not the [volume] number at the end of the day; it is more the way forward to sustain growth," said Speth.
The upcoming Land Rover Defender will be a key vehicle in the next phase of JLR's growth plan. The rugged off-roader will come in many versions, be sold globally and, like the iconic original, likely have an aluminum body. That makes it expensive to produce. JLR has to find a way to sell it profitably in all markets.
The Defender alone won't get JLR to 1 million vehicles, nor will additional versions of existing vehicles or boutique specialty cars from JLR's Special Vehicle Operations. It is unlikely the company will add another, lower cost brand — pulling the Rover badge out of mothballs, for example — for a series of premium cars, such as what BMW has with Mini.
"The fact is, JLR is still subscale," says Warburton, the analyst. "It's too big to be niche, but 700,000 units is not really sufficient to support multiple platforms and powertrains," he added. JLR's warranty costs are still too high, and Jaguar isn't yet pulling its weight.
"This is not a business without flaws and risks," Warburton said. "But it's fantastic what's been achieved so far, and the engineering, brands, pricing and fundamental capability of the place are all light-years ahead of where they were when Tata bought it."
Last year, Tata Motors denied it was considering a public offering for JLR. And it is not known publicly whether any joint ventures, acquisitions or mergers are under consideration.
"If JLR remains an independent business, which I hope they do under Tata ownership, they have the strength to now get some good, strategic partnerships," Joyce said. "They are now a very credible car manufacturer, and they will get to 1 million units a year in some foreseeable future. That is a good enough size to be strong around the world and to fight the challenges of markets and products changing, from diesel to petrol to electric. When you have that scale, you can be quite a successful business."
Speth remains focused on steady growth and keeping JLR moving quicker than the competition. "We have to find our own way, go our own way," he said. "That's our strength that we deliver. If you compare the product substance of our cars to our competitors, we deliver vehicles we want to drive. We just have to run a little faster."