Tata Motors bought Jaguar Land Rover in 2008, 9 years after Ford humiliated Ratan Tata and his team when the then new company wanted to sell its passenger car division to the American giant in 1999.
Irrespective of you being a petrolhead or not, the acquisition of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) by Tata Motors will bring a smile on your face. As patriotic as it gets, it certainly was a milestone for an Indian company to purchase one of the most iconic car manufacturers globally that have their roots in the country that also happens to be our erstwhile rulers. However, while the JLR acquisition has always been known for this sentiment, here is another rather unheard story that went on a more personal level with the then chairman Mr. Ratan Tata and his team that makes the JLR story a legend in the history of corporate India.
Back in 1999, Tata Motors’ was still a toddler in the passenger vehicle business with the new and indigenously developed Indica receiving lukewarm response from the masses. The poor response to its maiden offering drove the company to sell its passenger vehicle division with Ford showing interest in a buyout. A meeting was then set-up at the American automaker’s headquarters in Detroit where Ratan Tata and his team met with some nasty remarks by the American firm. Remarks like “You do not know anything, why did you start the passenger car division at all” along with “we will be doing a favour by purchasing your car division” didn’t go down well with Mr. Tata who eventually chose to not sell the car division away.
This meeting did come to a full circle nine years later in 2008 when Ford was on the verge of bankruptcy owed to the financial meltdown and it was Tata Motors that eventually won the bid, acquiring the Jaguar Land Rover brands for $2.3 billion (Rs. 9430 crores) from the American automaker. The buyout was also a saving grace for Ford and chairman Mr. Bill Ford thanked Mr. Tata saying “You are doing us a big favour by buying JLR.” A classic story of the little guy getting back at the giant, it was indeed Tata’s perseverance and hard work that paid off in the success of the Indica in its later years, followed by other products as well.
Today, Jaguar Land Rover has been doing exceptionally well globally and is the mainstay of Tata Motors’ finances. The automaker despite receiving a sabbatical time and again has emerged as the winner with its ability to endure and most importantly learn from its mistakes. Tata Motors newly launched products, the Zest and Bolt along with the HorizonNEXT strategy also talk about a similar turnaround for the company and a positive future ahead.