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Thierry Bolloré steps down as CEO of UK’s largest automotive employer Jaguar Land Rover

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Thierry Bolloré has resigned as chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) after two years in the job, citing “personal reasons”, in a surprise move that prompted questions over the strategy of the UK’s largest automotive employer.

The Indian owner of JLR, Tata Motors, announced the resignation, which will take effect on 31 December, in a statement to the Bombay stock exchange in Mumbai.

JLR’s long-serving chief financial officer, Adrian Mardell, will take over as interim chief executive after Bolloré’s departure. The search for a permanent successor to Bolloré will be handled by Tata in India, a person with knowledge of the situation said.

The resignation will mean the company, which is headquartered in Coventry, will have to grapple with a change of management at a time when it is struggling with continued disruption caused by the shortage of semiconductor computer chips, which has limited production and contributed to a string of deep financial losses during Bolloré’s time in charge. In addition, demand for cars is expected to fall as the UK enters a predicted recession, and the company must also continue to find large amounts of money to invest in new electric vehicle production.

Bolloré was appointed as JLR’s chief executive in July 2020, taking over from Sir Ralf Speth, who led the company for a decade, in September of that year.

The announcement on Wednesday took industry observers by surprise, with Bolloré still overseeing the company’s strategy to restructure the business, including making the Jaguar brand all-electric by 2025 and trying to push it towards the luxury end of the market. The company was still committed to the strategy that Bolloré set out, a source said.

In a statement, Bolloré said: “I am immensely proud of what we have achieved together at Jaguar Land Rover over the last two years. The company’s transformation and acceleration towards a sustainable, profitable future as a modern luxury business is under way at great pace.

“I would like to thank the whole team for their dedication and passion and I wish the entire organisation the very best for the future.”

Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chair of Tata Sons, the vast conglomerate whose UK interests also include steelmaking, technology services and Tetley tea, thanked Bolloré in a statement.

“The foundations for a successful transformation have been laid, leaving the company well poised for the future,” he said.

David Bailey, a professor of business economics at the University of Birmingham who studies the UK car industry, said Bolloré’s departure would raise questions over the future strategy of JLR at a time when the company and other carmakers are still working out how to transition to electric vehicles.

Bolloré had “ripped up” much of JLR’s previous strategy on arrival, including scrapping a planned electric version of the XJ saloon that had advanced as far as the prototype stage, Bailey said.