At the centre’s opening, Speth told Autocar that the base would “orchestrate all global engineering sites of Jaguar and Land Rover across the world – from China, Hungary, India, Ireland, Slovakia to the USA. For the first time,” he declared, “we can co-locate the essential divisions of the comprehensive product creation process with critical manpower here in Gaydon.”
In addition to being created here, all future Jaguar and Land Rover products will be tested on Gaydon’s collection of high-speed, suburban, cratered and muddy test tracks, as well as in its emissions labs and at temperatures down to -40deg C in its cold chambers. Such facilities have expanded “drastically” over the past 10 years, says Speth.
This Gaydon site has been prominent in local history for over 70 years. In 1942, it opened as a large RAF training airfield for bomber crews, criss-crossed by those three runways. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was a Cold War V-bomber base, again the main training centre for crews. After the Victors and Valiants departed in the mid-1960s, the RAF mothballed Gaydon until the late 1970s, when it was acquired as a somewhat secretive HQ for British Leyland Technology. It expanded chaotically as BL was variously joined and unjoined by the Rover Group, British Aerospace, BMW, Ford and Tata Motors in 2008, which saw it as a base for JLR.
In his stirring opening address, witnessed by employees as well as visitors, Speth made it clear that the new Gaydon Triangle, and the relocation of Jaguar design within it, represented the turning of a vital page for JLR. Pulling no punches, Speth declared: “The future of a wide field of future mobility has to be electric, based on green or renewable energy.” This seems a much more far-sighted approach than one might have expected from the boss of a company aiming to thrive by producing large, powerful premium vehicles. It appears to promise more radical developments in future.
Quoting Abraham Lincoln (“the best way to predict your future is to create it”), Speth talked extensively of a “Destination Zero” philosophy he is adamant will guide JLR’s future. Destination Zero means zero accidents, zero emissions and zero congestion, and all would eventually be delivered by vehicles designed, engineered and built in environmentally friendly, carbon-neutral JLR manufacturing plants.
“Our vision is for a world in which zero-emission vehicles, public transport and self-driving pods will form one smart, integrated and networked transport solution,” the CEO said. “These vehicles will be constructed using circular economy principles – new, sustainable, self-repairing materials plus upcycled and natural fibres that reduce emissions.”