Jaguar regains its reputation Essay

Originally called the Swallow Side Car Company, Jaguar Cars was founded in 1922 and became famous for its luxury and sports cars. In 1990, Jaguar was taken over by Ford and is now a wholly owned subsidiary. At the time of the Ford takeover, Jaguar’s quality performance was something of a paradox. Aesthetically and in terms of on-the-road performance the cars were often highly regarded, especially by a hard core of enthusiasts. Yet even they could not ignore Jaguar’s reputation for making cars which were, in comparison to its rivals, of exceptionally poor reliability.

Plagued by under-investment and a conservative technical-led, rather than customer-led, culture, the company’s old plants were struggling to achieve even acceptable levels of conformance quality.

At this time, the JD Power survey of customer satisfaction of cars imported to the US ranked only one car (the Yugo) lower than Jaguar. All this changed through the 1990s. The company invested heavily in training, especially in quality techniques such as statistical process control (see Chapter 17).

Piecework was abolished, as was ‘clocking in’ and a general productivity bonus introduced which encouraged flexible working.

Other shop floor initiatives included the introduction of multiskilled teams, total productive maintenance (see Chapter 19), continuous improvement teams (see Chapter 18) and benchmarking against the best in the business (see Chapter 18). The success of this quality improvement programme was dramatic. It encouraged Ford to invest in new Jaguar models and also had a significant impact on customer satisfaction. The same surveys which once put Jaguar at the bottom of the league now rank it in the very top group of luxury car makers.

Jaguar regains its reputation


1.What does ‘quality’ mean for a motor vehicle manufacturer such as Jaguar?

This box highlights how Jaguar have always been regarded as excellent at some aspects of quality (such as performance and aesthetics) but very poor at other (such as product reliability). This gives us a clue as to the various ‘dimensions’ of quality which are important to Jaguar. They are as follows.

• Performance – The speed, power, cornering and other aspects of the way the car drives. Fast speed, powerful acceleration, responsive handling, and so on are generally regarded as the mark of a ‘prestige’ car. • Aesthetics – The overall appearance of the car should reflect its values. A Jaguar is smooth, luxurious, dashing and sporty! The key question for Jaguar is ‘does the overall appearance and shape of the car reflect these values and appeal to its target customers?’ • Equipment – Is the car equipped with the type of things one would expect from a luxury car such as leather seats, global position system equipment, adjustable headlights and so on?

• Finish – Are the visible areas of the car free from any marks or blemish? This means an absence of scratches or small marks as well as an appropriate surface finish to all visible surfaces. • Build quality – This normally refers to how the car feels as doors open and close, windows are raised and lowered and so on. Is there a satisfying ‘solidity’ about the feel of the car? • Reliability – When in use does the car (or some part of the car) break down? Do things go wrong? • After sales service – Should the owner have any problems or wishes to know something more about the car, is it easy for him or her to do so?

All of these can be expanded considerably but the list does give an overall indication of the very many dimensions of quality which are important to Jaguar.

2.How did the changes which Jaguar made to its operations practice affect the quality of its products?

The changes made by Jaguar (at least those described in the box) were all to the processes within the operation. For example,

• Training would equip operators with the skills to assemble the car in the correct manner without making mistakes. • Statistical Process Control (covered in Chapter 17) would enable the operators to make sure that shopfloor processes operating as they should be an preferably improving. • Changing the payment system both encouraged operators to learn more skills and prevents them sacrificing quality in order to earn higher wages in the short term. • Multi-skilled teams would allow any absent workers to be covered for by people with equivalent skills and, more importantly, encourage continuous improvement to production processes. • Totally productive maintenance, improvement teams and benchmarking would likewise allow everyone working at the company to contribute to the general improvement effort.

All these changes were important but it is also vital to realise that, without the necessary investment, the changes in Jaguar would have been difficult or even impossible. Yet these issues are connected. It was the success of the company’s management in starting these changes which encouraged the parent group (Ford) to invest considerable sums of money in the company, which in turn allowed the changed described above to have a real impact.

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