Renault’s ex-CEO Bolloré to take over the reins at JLR

Murali Gopalan Mumbai | Updated on July 28, 2020

The biggest task for Thierry Bollore will be navigating the way ahead for JLR through these turbulent times.

Thierry Bolloré never featured in the list of names constantly touted as potential candidates to succeed Ralf Speth as CEO of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR).

Yet, it was the former CEO of Renault who sprung a surprise and will take over the reins at JLR from September 10. He assumes responsibility at a time when the Tata Motors-owned company will need astute skills to steer itself out of trouble in a world ravaged by Covid-19 that has left most economies gasping for breath.

Ties with Carlos Ghosn

Challenges are not new to Bolloré, who was literally in the thick of all the action that followed the dramatic arrest of Carlos Ghosn, the former Chairman of Renault-Nissan, in November 2018. Relations between the two partners were already tense and Bolloré was elevated to take charge of Renault.

The fact that he was perceived to be close to Ghosn perhaps became a constant niggle as the alliance struggled to put its house in order. Within 10 months of taking over as CEO of Renault, Bolloré was shown the door.

Was this done because he was perceived to be close to Ghosn, who was still languishing in a Tokyo detention centre? Or was it because he was doing precious little to improve Renault’s rapidly deteriorating ties with Nissan? The answers are not easy to come by even while Ghosn fled from Japan in 2019-end and is now in Lebanon.

Bolloré’s ouster also happened at a time when other heads were rolling in both companies. Top executives were sacked and replacements brought in as both Renault and Nissan tried every trick in the book to keep the partnership going.

It was also during his stint as CEO when merger talks took place between Renault and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), incidentally a pet project of Ghosn. The fact that this did not factor in Nissan did not go down too well with the latter. The French government, likewise, was not too enthusiastic and the FCA dropped the proposal and moved over with the merger offer to Groupe PSA.

A challenging period

It was clearly a challenging period for Bolloré who was out of Renault soon thereafter in October 2019, barely a year after Ghosn was arrested. He is now back to head a luxury brand, which has been through a rollercoaster ride in recent times, thanks to issues such as Brexit, the slowdown in China, and now the Covid-19 scourge. How he navigates JLR through these turbulent times will be his biggest task.

Bolloré, who has also had stints at Michelin and Faurecia before he joined Renault, will have his work cut out at JLR. Things have not been so great for the auto industry in recent times and the pandemic has ensured that it will take a long while before the global economy starts to crawl back to some semblance of normalcy. “The need of the hour for any leader in the auto sector is to see the larger picture and work towards this objective,” said a senior industry executive.

Published on July 28, 2020

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