Jaguar Land Rover: Building Automobiles That Appeal to Driving Enthusiasts and Purists

An interview with Wolfgang Hoffmann, president of Jaguar Land Rover Canada
By David Taylor
David Taylor
David Taylor
December 14, 2016 Updated: December 14, 2016

Jaguar and Land Rover are two iconic marques designed and built in England. Both companies have had the great good fortune to be wholly-supported by their south Asian owners and allowed to develop vehicles which many will aspire—in part thanks to dedicated engineers and teams of designers led by Ian Callum at Jaguar and Gerry McGovern at Land Rover.

Today, the Canadian arm of this global company Jaguar Land Rover is led by Wolfgang Hoffmann, a relatively new breed of automotive executive. As dapper as he is affable, Mr. Hoffmann is a smart businessman who understands his role and his organization’s position in the pantheon of automotive legends. Self-deprecating and quick to smile, Epoch Auto sat down with the man and learned a little more about him and his general vision for this emblematic company, an amalgamation of two inspiring and aspiring marques, working in tandem to fulfil their legacy.

Jaguar (David Taylor)
Jaguar (David Taylor)

Epoch Auto: You were born in Pforzheim, Germany and were able to take full advantage of the German education system, immersing yourself in your studies, eager to absorb and learn. As clichéd as it sounds, did this help you become the man you are today?

Wolfgang Hoffmann: Ha! You’re correct! In Germany when I went through the equivalent of high school, we were encouraged to participate in vocational-style training programs. This showed students like me the full depth of our assigned company. We had an opportunity to learn about bookkeeping, purchasing, sales, human resources, and even, in my case, total immersion—to a point. In my situation I was in a company that specialized in gear manufacturing related to industrial applications such as production lines. Quite serendipitous as it turned out! I learned about the practical side of the business, the functions that larger or smaller cogs made relative to speed. Saw how torque worked up close. And most important of all, discovered how customizing applications might make a difference.

2017 Land Rover Discovery (David Taylor)
2017 Land Rover Discovery (David Taylor)

Epoch Auto: So this whetted your appetite for inquiry, the need to discover, to determine paths, and options leading to improved systems and product?

Mr. Hoffmann: Pretty much. From there it was university where I studied business engineering, mechanical engineering involving electronics and computing, plus, of course regular business programs. Here I learned more about partnerships specifically departmental co-operation. From there it was off to the United Kingdom (U.K.) where I attended Nottingham University. My studies earned me an MBA.

I then worked as a consultant with two major German companies, Bosch and Siemens. There I continued to grow and learn. I was involved with many different, disparate projects: imagine, working on ready meals, diesel pumps, scaffolding—you name it, I had an opportunity to work in many diverse areas. There was a common thread throughout: something which would continue to be my focal point even to this day. People. People and relationships. Integral to the growth and success of any organization regardless of size.

Jaguar (David Taylor)
Jaguar (David Taylor)

A Turning Point

 Epoch Auto: From 1997 to 2005, you worked for Audi AG: your first foray into the world of automobiles. How did that work out?

Mr. Hoffmann: There I was an in-house house consultant—a conduit—a liaison between research and development (R&D) and management. Again, I continued to observe and learn about people. About the human condition, observing and being analytical without being self-absorbed. My role in the overall process, specifically for R&D management, project management and innovation management, was to develop process improvement workshops where team members would learn to work better in a collaborative environment—something that is also still encouraged within JLR to this day.

This culminated in my being designated as the lead engineer for a terrific team of like-minded individuals bringing the Audi A3 to market. I learned more about the broader sense of building a car. Learning why precision was absolute—vital. With my involvement in the launch of that car, I was able to become closer to the retail end of the business, and explored the experiential aspect of business with our customers. Simply put, I learned how to appreciate and comprehend how the value chain functions all the way down the line.

Crossing the Atlantic to a Whole New World

Epoch Auto: You were then presented various opportunities in North America. First in the United States with Audi and then you headed up Lamborghini and everything they stood for in that marketplace. But things changed in 2012.

Mr. Hoffmann: (smiling broadly) Yes, I came to Canada to head up Audi Canada. For almost four years, I was able to work with a team to grow the Audi presence in the Canadian marketplace. I now had terrific experience with two premium brands at the highest level so when the opportunity with Jaguar Land Rover presented itself, the timing was perfect.

Growing up, I played in my sandbox in our garden with a toy Series 1 Land Rover. Every boy knew what a Land Rover was. That and the emblematic E-Type Jaguar. That long, rakish hood, the spoked wheels, and of course, presented in British Racing Green!

Jaguar (David Taylor)
Jaguar (David Taylor)

Design and Details

This is a story of two brands. It’s all about the emotional experience. My responsibility is to tailor the continued development of our dealer network and ensure that the JLR image is maintained: this is not about managing a company while employing cruise control. There are goals to achieve, targets to be met and some of the finest examples of engineering and design the world has and will see to be presented!

For years, many people, myself included, have had a fascination with both Jaguar and Land Rover. These are two brands symbolic about everything that was seemingly right with the state of premium automotive manufacturing in the U.K. As an auto executive, one of the things we strive for is the ability to present stunning yet fully-functional well-engineered designs to market. I have long admired Ian Callum, Jaguar’s Design Director since 1999 and of course, Gavin McGovern, Land Rover’s Chief Design Officer. Two titans and they work for the JLR family! Both of these gentlemen epitomize what may be achieved when you start with a clean piece of white paper. Most important, whatever they do, the integrity of the brand may not be altered.

Because of the contributions of these fellows and their committed teams, we have been presenting the world with precise and exact driving machines: for Jaguar, the F-Type and F-Pace; for Land Rover with the Range Rover and the all new Discovery. JLR in all cases is not settling for acceptance. As a manufacturer, we need to provide the tools to develop individuals to their full potential, allow them to become leaders in their respective fields, and provide every customer with the very best. It’s not a stretch to suggest that JLR is detail-oriented with a strong focus on engineering and design.

Epoch Auto: You mention the F-Type and F-Pace. Acceptance by critics and consumers alike has been almost universal. What do you attribute this to?

Mr. Hoffmann: It’s true. Within JLR, even with a major change of ownership, the general corporate culture has likely never been stronger. Today, our brands can be what they are supposed to be. Our engineers and designers can do almost whatever they want, so long as it adheres to our overall sense of conducting business. Further, the experience of driving either a Jaguar or a Land Rover or Range Rover must be there. It’s a part of their DNA. There is an expectation. It’s all a part of that aspirational experience. We want to produce vehicles that have both a pleasing yet visceral effect on their owners. Does the car or SUV feel like its marque? Remember, brands are much like people. They have personality. They have character. Beliefs—even value systems. People are drawn to this. These factors resonate as key factors to our customers.

Jaguar (David Taylor)
Jaguar (David Taylor)

The beginning of an evolution, not a revolution

Epoch Auto: There is a sense of evolution with JLR, not revolution. Is that a fair observation?

Mr. Hoffmann: Yes. There is no overthrow of values. Of designs. In fact, we are taking great pains to ensure that a Jaguar is seen as a jaguar. Similarly with the Land Rover family too. We recently introduced Jaguar’s I-Pace—our first foray into the world of electric vehicles (EVs) at the Los Angeles auto show in November. Remember, technically, this is a concept, a prototype. However, in actual fact, this vehicle will be in dealerships in 2018 with few if any changes to what the world saw a short time ago.

Epoch Auto: It seemed to come from nowhere, out of left field.

Mr. Hoffmann: Perhaps. From a premium, luxury performance brand, no less! Thing is, it is obviously a Jaguar. Jaguar DNA is firmly embedded in this vehicle. We have been working on this for some time. We wanted our first EV to be spectacular. To look like a performance automobile, but without performance or range anxiety! We are estimating a range of 350 km on a full charge. This is a 4-door, luxury 5-seat SUV that runs off a liquid cooled battery pack, will achieve 350 km on one charge and will produce the equivalent of 400 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque!

Epoch Auto: Seems as if the future looks very bright for JLR going forward.

Mr. Hoffmann: JLR would never be described as vanilla! We will not be something for everyone. That dilutes everything for everyone. Of course, we want to be seen, to be recognized. We have no desire to be considered ubiquitous in either the premium performance category or the premium SUV class. While driving, you may see an occasional Jag or Land Rover—multiple sightings are unlikely. You will, however, remember.

David Taylor is an independent automotive lifestyle writer, producer, and editor based in Barrie, Ontario who is fascinated by innovation and technology which enhance the overall driving experience. He’s also a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Follow him on Twitter @Omemeeozzie or on Instagram @hugoscaroftheweek.

David Taylor