Much is rightly made about the lack of female representation in the upper echelons of business, and particularly the motor industry.
But since January, Coventry-born-and-raised Linda Jackson has been at the helm of Peugeot as its global boss.
This follows five years as CEO of its sibling-rival Citroen as she helped turn that firm around to make it more customer-friendly and focused.
Streets ahead: Linda Jackson, left, and Julie David
Running Peugeot in the UK since January is managing director Julie David, who has risen through the senior ranks in a career encompassing Ford, Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda, Jaguar Land Rover and aerospace.
Alison Jones completes the trio of British women in top positions at Peugeot, known for its roaring lion logo.
She has UK responsibility for the French car maker’s parent company Stellantis and is a senior vice-president for the international group.
I met Linda Jackson and Julie David at the new Stellantis flagship Robins and Day dealership in Chiswick, West London.
During her time heading Citroen and before, Mrs Jackson would regularly carry out ‘mystery shopping’ trips to her own and rival dealerships.
Her face is too well known to continue that today, but as the boss she’s in a position to drive change.
Senior vice president: Alison Jones has UK responsibility for Peugeot’s parent company Stellantis
After starting with a holiday job as a clerk at Jaguar, Mrs Jackson moved to Rover, gaining an MBA at Warwick University, and rising through the ranks to become European finance director before joining Citroen in 2005.
She was managing director for Citroen UK and Ireland from 2010 to 2014 when she became chief executive of Citroen — the first English woman to run a major car company.
Her new brief includes taking Peugeot even more upmarket, expanding sales globally — including into South America, the Middle East, Africa, and China — and accelerating the move towards electrification.
‘By the end of this year, 70 per cent of our models will have an electrified version – whether hybrid or fully electric. By 2025 we’ll be 100 per cent electrified,’ she said. ‘And by 2030 all or models will have a fully electric version.
‘But as the Cop26 eco-extravaganza comes to an end, the failure of governments at home and abroad to match their ambitious electric car targets with a sufficiently robust public charging network is a real concern.’
Peugeot sells more than a million cars a year globally, and is on track for 100,000 this year in the UK — with the 208 supermini the biggest seller.
Among the latest models is the new 308 hybrid hatchback in a fetching olivine green launch colour.
In 2017, Mrs Jackson was named the ‘most influential Briton in the global car industry’, topping a poll of 50 car executives in the annual Auto Express ‘Brit List’ — the first time a female executive has taken top spot.
A year later she won Autocar’s Great British Women in the Car Industry award, a feat emulated by her colleague Alison Jones.
Green machine: The new Peugeot 308 hybrid in its fetching launch colour. Peugeot sells more than a million cars a year globally, and is on track for 100,000 this year in the UK
The full picture
As leading executives, they are not there to create cars specifically for women, but to consider the full range of issues.
That includes design, interior storage and luggage space, ambience, practicality, and personal safety — and how people are treated in the showroom whether buying there or online.
Mrs Jackson said: ‘We need to make showrooms a warm and welcoming place with a good ambience.
‘People will do a lot online. But they still want to see the colour of the paint and sense the touch and feel of the car.’
Leading from the front: five others to watch
Managing director Ford Britain and Ireland since September last year. She has more than 30 years’ experience with the car maker she joined as a graduate trainee.
chief financial officer at supercar and racing firm McLaren Group since April this year. She has also worked for top accountancy firms and telecoms company TalkTalk.
Brand director, Jaguar. A Jaguar Land Rover graduate trainee, she is now Brand Director for the leaping cat firm, which is reinventing itself as an electric only car maker by 2025.
Director of the Retail Motor Industry Federation’s National Franchised Dealers’ Association (NFDA). It represents 4,000 car dealerships across the UK, which employ 600,000 people.
Media-savvy and currently contract hire relationships manager for Surrey-based Kia UK, her recent report on women and diversity in the motor industry helped highlight the issue.
Telling me of her undercover visits, she said: ‘You do learn a lot about how the customer is treated.
‘Sometimes you go into a showroom with your husband and they just turn to your male partner and say, ‘How would you like to spend your money?’
‘We want to make it easier for anyone to buy a car.’
How is it to have women in three of the top jobs? ‘I never think of it like that,’ she said. ‘It’s not about gender. It’s about whether you are credible and capable.’
Peugeot’s UK managing director, Julie David, said she also undertook ‘mystery shopping’ before switching from Jaguar Land Rover.
Rolling up outside one showroom in a sports car and parking it prominently, she was astonished by the complete lack of interest from staff in the dealership.
‘No one spoke to me,’ she said. ‘I love driving. Women do love driving — and performance.’
Stellantis boss Alison Jones believes mentorship and coaching are important, and advises those with ambitions to rise through the industry to find a mentor with career experience of an area they find really interesting and want to emulate.
On the horizon
Beyond Peugeot, industry rising star Moyosola Fujamade, who works as contract hire relationships manager for Kia in the UK, recently published a report on diversity in the motor industry, speaking to many of the industry’s senior executives.
She said: ‘I was once told that persistence and patience would be the two things that would see me through my career.
And while I must agree in part, I do also believe in knocking down doors every now and again.
‘Breaking down barriers for me has been about not being afraid to speak out. Also, having a mentor has been a fantastic developmental tool for me.
‘As a black woman, I have felt it necessary to work twice as hard in life to get as far as my counterparts.’
She added: ‘The automotive industry should have a larger presence at careers fairs and schools.
We need to be sending ambassadors to connect with students who may otherwise not think of a career within the industry.
‘Apart from anything else, can we continue to miss out on talented individuals who may not necessarily be aware of the reasons they should join us?’
Sue Robinson, who heads the Retail Motor Industry Federation’s National Franchised Dealers’ Association representing the UK’s main dealerships, said: ‘We have come a long way.
‘Training really has improved. No one can be more passionate than me about insuring that our female customers are treated well in showrooms.
‘Women have huge buying power. Very often they are buying the car outright for themselves. But if any woman feels she is not being treated correctly then I want to know.’
So it seems that the motor industry is perhaps moving in the right direction, but there are still plenty of improvements to be made.
Crackdown on scooter lawbreakers
Ministers and police must do more to control the widespread and illegal use of electric two-wheelers, says the UK’s largest independent road safety charity IAM RoadSmart.
With nine fatalities and hundreds more injuries already this year, critics are concerned that the fast-moving e-scooters are an unregulated danger to road users.
Safety concerns: Critics are concerned e-scooters are an unregulated and illegal danger to road users
The problem is that ‘confusion reigns’ around the rules about e-scooters, says IAM.
By law, only e-scooters rented from authorised providers as part of the Government’s pilot trial are legal on UK roads.
More than 50 areas are operating rental schemes — including Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, and selected London boroughs.
All others bought privately can be used legally only on private land. ‘Riding an e-scooter outside such rental zones could land you with a £300 fine, six points on your licence and your e-scooter could even be impounded by the police,’ says the charity.
However, there is little evidence of widespread enforcement, despite some high-profile accidents and deaths.
And sales of e-scooters are booming — even though they cannot be used legally on the highway.
A report by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) says that this year up to mid-October there were more than 300 injury collisions in the UK, causing nine deaths and 79 serious injuries.
That includes 24 head injuries. By contrast, in the previous two years there were three deaths.
PACTS says there are 20,000 e-scooters legally on the road — but 360,000 more were bought privately in 2020 alone and ‘sales have continued in 2021’.
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