It’s hard to think how Thierry Bolloré could have made a better job of his first public outing as the boss of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR).

Far from coming across as the austere, crop-headed and cagey business professional of his early publicity photographs, he was enthusiastic, calm, quick to smile and happy to give good-natured answers even to sometimes-trite questions. Above all, he seemed full of energy and well prepared for the challenges to come.

As befits someone who has had nearly six months to finesse his all-encompassing transformation plans, Bolloré seemed very secure with the details and disarmingly keen – even impatient – to impart what he must have known would be seen as fundamentally good news (expansion not shrinkage, generous investment, new forays into high technology and new freedom for JLR’s company’s engineers and designers).

He revealed that even at the job interview stage, he had “shared several dreams” with the company officials who subsequently gave him the job – and hinted that some of those dreams are now part of the plan.  

Interestingly, his appearance chimed very well with the straightforward approach to rethinking the two brands he espouses: a well-cut but conservative navy suit and tie, a white shirt, simple cufflinks, even a white-faced watch with numerals so clear you could read them off the Zoom screen. No hand tremors or beads of sweat. Just plausibility to burn. 

When asked for details about why the job appealed to him, Bolloré said just enough about the personal challenge of running two extraordinary brands (“this is an everlasting dream; how could anyone say no?”) to make it seem more like a personal mission rather than a mere professional task. It was nicely judged.

As Bolloré acknowledged, there’s now an enormous amount to be done in a scarily short time. Moving on from the successful but eventful Sir Ralf Speth decade, especially with the first Covid-19 year to provide a further stark divide, was always going to makr of the start of an entirely new era. But with Bolloré’s presentation, the sheer scale of that newness was even more dramatically portrayed than expected.

Judging by his initial performance, the new CEO looks, so far, to be the man for the job.       

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