How Jaguar Land Rover is powering the SA electric car revolution
There is a natural expectation for heads of motor companies to be car enthusiasts and Richard Gouverneur, MD of Jaguar Land Rover SA, is no exception. However, this incurable petrolhead is also at the vanguard of the battery-powered revolution in SA.
He speaks to us about the challenges of getting electric-vehicle buy-in from consumers and government against a weakened car market.
Phuti Mpyane: So, how has the South African automotive business been treating you since the start of the New Year?
Richard Gouverneur: We are seeing more of the same from 2018. We had planned for a continuation of the weakness from the market and we see that the trend persists in 2019. The premium segment which we trade in is about nine percent down from the previous year.
PM: What trends and challenges have you seen that echo the current economic conditions?
RG: We find that this pressure manifests in all spheres of the business and it comes down fundamentally to consumer confidence. Some of our clients are emigrating. We are also seeing clients hold on longer to their cars, purchasing extended warranties and service plans and we also see difficulty for clients to access finance at the lower end of our product ranges as banks clamp down due to high default rates. However, our brand remains fairly resilient.
PM: As you mention the lower end is facing difficulty; what of the higher end?
RG: Despite the expectations and challenges, we are finding solid opportunities at the top end of the market. We’ve just recently launched the F-Pace SVR and we are doing good business on this car. The Range Rover Sport SVR is also doing exceedingly well for us.
PM: While on new cars, can you shed more light on the new Defender?
RG: As you can understand I’m unable to talk at length until the reveal, but I can assure you that as the Land Rover halo car it will be the epitome of capability and will deliver to customer expectations.
PM: On to Jaguar then. How are you going to match the pace of the brand’s accelerated move towards electrification with the slow pace of this country in adopting electric vehicles?
RG: This remains a challenge for a many of my local counterparts. It’s about looking at where product is headed globally, where mobility solutions are going and where the ownership versus usership model is going, recognising the slow uptake and then implementation in the best possible way.
We have varied challenges and also have an opportunity. Currently some of the challenges we have are government legislation and subsidies which do not support manufacturers such as ourselves who produce and want to bring in electric vehicles to this market, in contrast to what’s happening in many other countries.
Take Mauritius as a prime example. It’s one of the markets that I look after. In that country there is zero import duty imposed on fully electric vehicles. We really urge government to take a look at this because it incentivises people’s buying behaviour as there is a defined benefit in doing so. There is also negative sentiment from consumers, particularly about overloading the Eskom network.
This is unfounded because EVs will mostly charge during off-peak hours, usually at night when pressure on the grid is at its lowest. In fact, it’s been found that an EV largely charges on system generation power losses rather than off the core grid.
In a nutshell, because Eskom’s power generation never stops, it loses a lot of power when we are fast asleep and when most appliances are switched off. Electric vehicles will be using up this power that would have been lost in any case.
SA also has huge geographies and electric vehicles work fantastic in metros and hubs. But customers also require vehicles for travel beyond those jurisdictions. Do we have the infrastructure in place to make this possible and lessen range anxiety? This is why we have invested more than R30m in our network of 60 Power Way electric vehicle chargers positioned strategically on our highways.
PM: Can this charging network support other EV brands, and do you want it to?
RG: Yes. As it stands right now you can charge competitor brands on the Jaguar Power Way. Initially we found one or two issues with a first generation of a competitor brand being unable to charge on the Power Way. This was purely a case of old technology on the part of that vehicle. Although I can’t say that newer EVs will be able to use the network, currently the second and third generations of that competitor brand have been found to be compatible.
At first we selfishly placed them for the convenience of our I-Pace owners but also as a stepping stone for the entire industry and SA to adopt the electric revolution. Electrification is a key priority and we believe we will be more successful in this pursuit if more players join in.
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