Jaguar Land Rover is planning a major campaign to position itself as an iconic UK brand. The move comes after its recent foreign buyout and in the face of job cuts and the worst car sales for 40 years.
The Midlands-based manufacturer has appointed Portland PR to position the firm as a 'blue-chip UK corporate', on a par with retailer Marks & Spencer. The decision to focus on boosting its UK business credentials follows its purchase by Indian auto firm Tata Motors.
Jaguar Land Rover comms and public affairs director Simon Warr said: 'We're the largest car company in the UK and so are a major corporate player. We need to start mixing with other British major corporates. We should be up there with Marks & Spencer.'
He added that the firm had traditionally enjoyed a good relationship with motoring correspondents, but that its presence on the business pages was limited.
The drive to raise its corporate profile comes at a tough time for auto manufacturers. British car sales have fallen heavily in recent months, with Land Rover particularly hard hit and further job cuts expected at the firm.
Portland will focus on issues surrounding the change of ownership, the firm's investment in green technology and its strategy to get through the economic downturn.
The agency has initially been taken on until the spring, with further work expected.
The account is being led by Steve Morris, former Defra director of communications and an ex-Number 10 staffer.
Jaguar Land Rover is also understood to be seeking a specialist public affairs agency,as previous agency Lexington Communications will continue to be used by the firm's former owner Ford. Portland is not expected to take the account as Jaguar Land Rover traditionally keeps these functions separate.
Tata bought JLR for £1.15bn in March
Sales of Land Rovers have suffered, but revenues have been boosted by the launch of the Jaguar XF model
The firm employs 15,000 people but said 300 to 400 jobs may go in addition to the 200 cut last month
General car sales in October fell by as much as 25 per cent. August sales hit a 40-year low.