Phil is a Land Rover stalwart who started with the company as a graduate trainee back in 1988. Since then, he’s had a distinguished career rapidly climbing the corporate ladder. After a stint as a Regional Business Manager in the 1990s, he moved to South Africa where he set up a number of Land Rover Experience centres before moving to North America to become Vice President of Marketing.
Popham left Land Rover to follow his former boss, Peter Wyhinny with Volkswagen, but was soon back with the Green Oval as UK Sales Director – progressing through Managing Director of Jaguar Land Rover UK to become Managing Director of Land Rover in 2006. He was appointed Director of Group Sales Operations in 2010, then Group Marketing Director for Jaguar Land Rover in October 2013, where he was responsible for all global marketing activity for both Jaguar and Land Rover brands.
Quite literally tall, dark and handsome, Phil combines these attributes with being a genuinely nice person but with all the drive to lead a big organisation. He joins Sunseeker at an interesting time for the luxury boat manufacturer which, like JLR, has had its financial problems in the past. I’m sure all Land Rover Owner International readers will join us in thanking Phil for his contribution to the brand and wish him well in his future career.
Phil’s replacement will be Gerd Mäuser, who previously worked for BMW and Porsche although he also had a spell with the German football club VfB Stuttgart 1893.
Although undoubtedly a man of high calibre, Mäuser’s appointment brings the total of German nationals on JLR’s Executive Committee to five while seven members will have been employed by BMW at one stage in their careers. Germans hold key positions in the company – CEO, Director of Research and Technology, Director of Manufacturing, and Director of Group Engineering and now Chief Marketing Officer also.
No one can deny the rapid progress JLR has made under the leadership of Dr Speth. Tata Motors acquired the company from Ford just before the global financial crisis bottomed out and struggled badly until improvements to the Discovery and Range Rover Sport, and the arrival of the Range Rover Evoque, spearheaded a product-led revival. Nowadays, JLR is one of Britain’s most successful manufacturing companies, earning a profit of £2.5 billion for the 2013/14 fiscal year.
While it is understandable and even almost traditional for Dr Speth to gather former colleagues around him, it must be said that BMW’s ownership of the Rover Group was less than wonderful with the so-called ‘English Patient’ bringing the parent company to its knees and prompting a chaotic sell-off. It is to be hoped that the lessons of those times have been taken on board, especially the protection of the value of Land Rover as a brand.
Although often given equal weight in company literature, Jaguar sales are a fifth of Land Rover’s, so keeping Land Rover’s distinctive image is vital – with the departure of someone steeped in the traditions of the Green Oval, this could become more difficult.
JLR is in many ways at a crossroads – despite impressive sales and the opening of a new engine factory to increase its independence, some business analysts believe that its rapid expansion cannot be sustained. While the US economy is showing signs of recovery, the same cannot be said for Europe, for a Russia affected by trade sanctions and a China that seems to be running out of steam.
In this environment, the distinctive character of Land Rover is a serious asset. If it is lost or diluted, then JLR will be competing on equal terms with some of the big boys in the market, where the company is still a comparative minnow. Up to the end of October 2014, BMW – itself regarded as a specialist manufacturer – delivered nearly seven times the volume of JLR. The company is also about to go toe to toe with BMW with the mid-sized Jaguar XE that will compete with the German company’s 3-Series.
In a slightly worrying development, it is believed that the design of the new Discovery Sport was watered down to make it more commercial (not in the utility vehicle sense) but putting it in direct competition with other Paris motor show debutants like the second-generation Ford Edge and the latest Renault Espace.
So, Herr Mäuser is going to need a quick ‘dipping in green’ session to understand just what Land Rover is all about. Let’s hope he picks up a copy of Land Rover Owner International or two!