Tata can keep Ralf Speth in the JLR driver's seat

MUMBAI: The Tata Group is considering extending Jaguar Land CEO ’s tenure by a year. He is due to retire in September. The conglomerate is contemplating an extension for the British-German as it feels a safe pair of hands at the helm would be best to steer out of the Covid-19 crisis. Speth, the longest serving CEO of JLR, is attributed with having revitalised the automotive company’s fortune after it was acquired by the Tata Group , and the conglomerate hopes he could give the firm a similar boost in the post Covid-19 era.

JLR, Britain’s largest automotive company, has taken a hit since the coronavirus outbreak, with sales plummeting to historic lows in several countries including China, its biggest market. While it recently reopened its factory in China, production at all of its three plants in the UK remain suspended. A major contributor to Tata Group ’s revenue, JLR’s rejuvenation is key to the conglomerate’s automotive play.

Talks have been held to extend the term of the Speth CEO, although no decision has been made on it, people familiar with the matter said. Consideration of tenure extension comes at a time when a search committee is in the process of identifying replacement candidates to lead JLR. If the group decides to extend the term of the Speth CEO, it will be rare for a Tata boss's term to have been extended after his retirement age of 65. Extraordinary situations require extraordinary measures and, therefore, the movement to retain Speth, the people cited above added.

Speth has been leading JLR since he and the automobile company became a part of the Tata Group after it acquired the UK from Ford in 2010. The carmaker’s profits have risen under his leadership over the years, though in 2019, there was a temporary dip as the China slowdown and Brexit-related disruptions forced the company to write off past investments and axe jobs. The 64-year-old automobile engineer has since managed to revive JLR again and put it back on track. In the third quarter of fiscal 2020, the business returned to profit of £318 million as against a loss of £273 million in the December quarter of fiscal 2019.