Big interview: Linda Jackson

Big interview: Linda Jackson

Linda Jackson is leading the charge at the Stellantis Group to change the future of automotive, as well as working hard to make the industry more inclusive. MotorPro sits down with the Chief Executive of Peugeot to understand how automotive needs to change

A career in automotive wasn’t your first choice and your family weren’t enthusiastic about the prospect, so why did you join the sector?

I was actually going to go to university to be a teacher and wanted a summer job. My uncle was working at Jaguar and he got me a job. I was there for three months and was able to see the design area, understand exactly what goes into designing cars, as well as customer relations and dealers, and was blown away by the whole thing.

My parents were very conservative. When I said I was going to work in the automotive business, my mum thought I was going to get my hands dirty – I wasn’t. I worked in finance, marketing, on the commercial side, but at the end of the day they saw that I was enjoying myself, and I was so taken with the industry that I could see the opportunities.

How have you managed to stay passionate about automotive?

The industry is always evolving. The first cars I was buying and selling 40-odd years ago didn’t have electric windows or aircon. Some cars didn’t even have a radio. Car technology has changed, the way we sell the cars has changed, and you’re always learning something new. What’s going to happen in the next 10 years is potentially more than has happened in the last 20. It’s an industry that’s continually evolving and I’ve always found that interesting.

The other thing is that you’re selling something that people want to say about themselves. This business isn’t just about a car; it’s about the experience that someone is going to have in that car. It’s about what that car says about them, about whether they are going to be happy when they return to the dealer. I find the combination of customer experience and product fascinating.

What does the future hold for the automotive sector?

Like a lot of manufacturers, Peugeot is moving towards being a tech company rather than purely producing cars. You’re moving into connectivity, data analysis, big data, AI, electrification.

The business is also changing for dealers and retailers. We all talk about selling online, and some people think everyone will buy a car online. Of course, they won’t, and you’ll still have a physical and digital experience.

The real importance of the retailer is moving towards not simply showing the car but explaining aspects of the car to the customer and giving them a great brand experience. The customer will go online to look, but then they’ll want to have a test drive. They’ll want to talk to somebody to understand how the car works and whether it’s the right model for them. The real added value of brand experience is still with the retailer.

How will the skills requirements change for the roles we currently have in the sector, as well as the new positions that changes in the industry will bring?

In an OEM, they’re changing continually, and software engineers are becoming ultra-important because you’re talking about connectivity in the car. Retailers and dealers have to provide the experience so they have to have the knowledge to be able to talk to their customers, to add value to that experience when they come in.

The people we’re looking for have people skills, while in the aftersales part of the workshops, we’re looking for specialists – mechanics not only for normal combustion engines but those with a specialism in electric vehicles.

How important is it to get young people enthusiastic about automotive?

One of the subgroups in my Diversity Task Force Working Group looked at the need to influence children, because they develop perceptions very early on. It’s important that we start to influence them and their parents. It’s about going back to a very early age and changing their perception of what the business is.

The other thing we need to do is emphasise the tremendous work that’s been done by manufacturers, dealers and dealer groups on sustainability – our move towards carbon zero and protecting the planet.

This is an edited extract from IMI's new MotorPro magazine, received free as part of IMI membership.