Blog: Dave LeggettJaguar - at least the quality is good, these days

Dave Leggett | 15 June 2007

One of the things that Nick Scheele at Jaguar could take some pride in when I met him a few years ago was the massive improvement in Jaguar quality. A buyer of a Jaguar today needn't worry about quality.  

It was very, very different in the 1980s though, before Ford got hold of it.

Ex-Ford's Alan Spencer (now on the Kamaz truck company board in Russia - initially via an EBRD seat) recounted yesterday at the London Frost do (previous blog) how he had dinner with John Egan of Jaguar, just before Ford purchased the big cat. At the time Ford was coming under a bit of pressure for its 'un-Britishness' in the media.

Egan quizzed Spencer about where Ford was buying its parts. Yes, they came from all over Europe, Spencer confirmed, but we are going for the best quality.

Egan's response: what about the responsibility to the British customers to buy British?

Spencer insisted that the responsibility to the customer was to provide the best quality product and that customers did not give a hoot where the headlamps were from as long as they worked. Egan responded along the lines of 'yes, in my heart I know you are right...but a Jaguar, well, we have to buy British!' And he did.

The clear implication was that Egan persevered with poor quality suppliers if they were British and, well, Ford eventually discovered just what that meant. The quality problems had their roots in UK-sourced components. Exasperated Americans at Ford had their jokes about Jaguar back then, apparently. This was one and I have to admit it got a laugh (all due respect to Lucas Automotive, legendary 'Lord Lucas, Prince of Darkness' due to a reputation for dodgy electrics - as Alan Spencer said, we don't like to speak ill of companies that are no longer with us - but actually, we Brits do like a good laugh over our glorious failures): 

Q. Why do the British drink their beer warm?

A. Because Lucas make their refrigerators.


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