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Jaguar and Land Rover Are Working to Fix Their Biggest Problem

Jaguar and Land Rover aren't the first names in build quality. They want to change that reputation.

land rover defender
Nick Dimbleby

Jaguar and Land Rover produce some of the world's most aesthetically pleasing and capable automobiles, but build quality has long been an Achilles' heel for both brands. Their cars have a notorious reputation for poor reliability — a reputation routinely grounded in brand initial quality surveys and broader testing, where both Jaguar and Land Rover routinely languish with Alfa Romeo in the bottom five brands.

According to JLR, poor build quality is hurting the bottom line. Recently, CEO Thierry Bolore told investors that reliability is costing the company 100,000 units in sales globally per year, according to Automotive News Europe. That's not to mention the cost of repairing vehicles under warranty, which can run in the hundreds of millions per year.

And it's not just Consumer Reports-reading Americans who are skeptical of the brands. Another example of the broader dissatisfaction against Jaguars and Land Rovers: Chinese buyers protested outside the company's headquarters there in 2018.

The company has a plan to fix it, however. Land Rover head of design Gerry McGovern told investors on the same call that a central part of their new product plan would be "reducing the complexity of (their) vehicles massively," which would lead to "fewer things going wrong because the process will not be as complex."

Reducing complexity seems eminently sensible. (Does the Range Rover need six engine options?) And, in theory, much of the complexity issue may resolve itself when JLR goes mostly electric; EVs are naturally simpler with far fewer moving parts, and much of the car production will be outsourced, as JLR will be partnering on powertrains and platforms for its new vehicles.

In theory, vehicle production itself could be outsourced to, say, Magna Steyr, who currently build two Jaguar vehicles. JLR could even follow former corporate partners Ford and Volvo by outsourcing infotainment development to Google. The transition could leave Jaguar and Land Rover basically controlling the styling and fine performance tuning of the new vehicles...which is probably what most buyers would want.

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