LONDON (Reuters) – Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) <TAMO.NS> has picked ousted Renault boss Thierry Bollore as its next chief executive, with a mission to return Britain’s biggest carmaker to profit after a big hit from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bollore took over at Renault <RENA.PA> in January 2019 after the fall of Carlos Ghosn, but was always viewed a close to the French carmaker’s long-time boss and was pushed out in October when it looked for a fresh start.
Bollore will take over at JLR on Sept. 10, replacing Ralf Speth, whose tenure ends after more than 10 years.
“It will be my privilege to lead this fantastic company through what continues to be the most testing time of our generation,” Bollore said in a statement on Tuesday.
JLR was hit this year first by disruption to sales in China and then by lockdowns across Europe and North America as the COVID-19 outbreak spread around the globe.
In 2019, it cut jobs to address tumbling diesel sales, which helped it return to profit. But as the pandemic struck, it slumped to a pretax loss of 422 million pounds ($543 million) for the year ended March 31, 2020.
The company has already taken steps to tackle the crisis, including agreeing a loan facility of around $700 million with lenders in China and further staff reductions.
It is also in talks with the British government over potential support, according to media reports.
Bollore takes over a business that built just over 500,000 cars in 2019/20. He faces a number of tasks, including how to handle the Jaguar brand, which underperforms the Land Rover marque, how quickly to electrify its lineup and a potential hit from Brexit if trade barriers are imposed.
JLR has a partnership with BMW on electrification and parent company Tata Motors recently recommitted to the company.
“Tata Group recognises and values Jaguar Land Rover’s future potential highly,” said JLR Chairman Natarajan Chandrasekaran earlier this month.
“That is why this company is central to our global automotive presence – a presence that we intend to develop for years to come.”
(Additional reporting by Chris Thomas in Bengaluru and Gilles Guillaume in Paris; editing by Jason Neely and Mark Potter)