Jaguar Land Rover yesterday said David Smith was stepping down as chief executive shortly and would be replaced by Ravi Kant, the vice chairman of Jaguar Land Rover’s parent company Tata Motors, until a permanent successor is announced.
The firm did not say why Smith was leaving, although it denied the move was related to last week’s breakdown of talks with its trade unions over pay and pensions.
There has been talk about a disagreement over strategy between the company’s new Indian owners and Smith, who joined Jaguar Land Rover’s previous owner Ford in 1983.
A spokesman said: “The arrangements relating to David Smith’s departure are a confidential matter between him and the company. David’s departure is not linked to the talks with the unions.”
Negotiations between Jaguar Land Rover and unions broke down last week after the unions rejected reforms including a plan to cut the pay and pensions of new staff. Jaguar said it did not envisage any compulsory redundancies. The firm also plans to close one of its two factories in the West Midlands, at Solihull and Castle Bromwich, which employ 5,000 and 2,000 people respectively. The group plans to announce its decision by the middle of this year.
The group has cut production by about 100,000 cars during the downturn. It sold 65,000 Jaguars in 2008, and about 52,000 last year.
Sales revived last month and the group plans to return production to the 300,000 units it was making in 2007 “in the next few years”.