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Old 02-04-2005, 07:11   #1 (permalink)
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UK:American exec charged with bringing life back to Britian's Jaguar

Customer Thinking: American exec charged with bringing life back to Britian's Jaguar

BRADFORD WERNLE | Automotive News Europe

LONDON -- After native Pennsylvanian Bibiana Boerio was chosen to lead Jaguar last year, one British newspaper referred to her as a "strange choice."

She doesn't agree.

"I'm not a strange choice because I think like a customer," she says. "I see myself as the voice of the vertically challenged and the American customer."

Boerio admits she isn't inclined to get under the hood and work on cars: "I'm a strong advocate for the enthusiastic customer who may not be a technical gearhead."

But she brings financial and marketing expertise that Jaguar sorely needs. Boerio, 50, is an American woman charged with putting life back into a British brand that hasn't shown much of it lately.

Tough times

Jaguar has been in dire straits. Although parent Ford Motor Co. doesn't break out brand numbers individually, Jaguar accounted for the lion's share of the $740 million that Ford's Premier Automotive Group lost in 2004.

Named in August as managing director of Jaguar, Boerio has been handed the unenviable job of running Ford Motor's poorest-performing brand.

It's not a task from which she shrinks.

Her assignment at Jaguar's headquarters in Browns Lane, England, isn't her first. She was Jaguar finance director between 1995 and 2000, when Nick Scheele was Jaguar's chairman.

After that assignment she moved to Ford Motor Credit Co. in Dearborn, Mich., where she was executive vice president and CFO. She then worked for former Ford international operations Executive Vice President David Thursfield as chief of finance and strategy.

Because of the way PAG is set up, Boerio doesn't bear primary responsibility for fixing Jaguar's unwieldy industrial structure. That job goes to her boss, Joe Greenwell, CEO of Jaguar-Land Rover.

In Ford's structure, Boerio is chief of the Jaguar brand. In addition to her stint at Ford Motor Credit, she has been a Ford regional marketing manager. The finance and marketing experience should be tested at a company that needs to sell more cars profitably and get its finances in order.

Jaguar has launched a turnaround plan that includes closing its Browns Lane assembly plant in the English Midlands.

The XJ and next-generation XK will be moved up the road to Castle Bromwich in Birmingham, starting with the XJ this summer. The decision to close Browns Lane was traumatic for management and employees.

Jaguar has abandoned its cherished goal of selling 200,000 cars a year, causing Browns Lane to be regarded as excess capacity. Jaguar also needs plans to wean itself off incentives to restore some luster to its brand and some profits to dealers.

Boerio sees herself as someone who can bring the voice of the U.S. customer into an English company. Jaguar has not performed well in the United States. U.S. sales of the X-Type were disappointing from the start, and the flagship XJ sedan has not lived up to expectations. Overall, Jaguar sold 45,875 vehicles in the United States in 2004, down 16.1 percent from 54,655 in 2003.

No sport wagon

Jaguar -- which sells only sedans, sports cars and a few station wagons -- is trying to compete in a U.S. luxury market that is snapping up sport wagons such as the Lexus RX 330. Boerio says a sport wagon could fit into the Jaguar portfolio, although there are no plans for one.

Boerio knows the road ahead won't be easy for Jaguar. Jaguar officials hope the closing of Browns Lane will begin to turn around the struggling brand. But Ford executives admit that that may not be the last move they make if Jaguar doesn't begin turning a profit.

Boerio knows the job ahead is tough.

"I want us to try and have a bit of fun," she says, adding that 2004 "was a tough old year for everybody."
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