The former foreign secretary Boris Johnson has suggested he knows more about car manufacturing than the chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover.
The Conservative MP and prominent backer of the campaign to leave the EU was responding to a caller in a radio phone-in who suggested that JLR was being forced to cut thousands of jobs in the UK because of Brexit.
JLR said last week it would cut 4,500 jobs worldwide, with the majority of the losses in the UK. Britain’s largest car manufacturer blamed the impact of changing regulation for diesel engines and a slowdown in Chinese demand for the losses.
Its chief executive, Ralf Speth, also issued a stark warning about the effects of a no-deal Brexit, saying the company could stockpile enough parts to deal with only a few days of trade disruption.
When the LBC radio host Nick Ferrari said Speth knew more about car manufacturing than Johnson, the MP responded: “Well actually, it’s an interesting point. I’m not certain he does, by the way.”
Johnson served as foreign secretary from July 2016 until July last year. He has not served in transport roles in central government although, as mayor of London from 2008 to 2016, he had responsibility for transport in the capital.
Speth, on the other hand, has more than 30 years’ automotive industry experience, after starting out working for BMW in his native Germany. He worked for BMW for 20 years and also had a stint as director of production for Ford’s luxury car brands. He joined JLR in February 2010 as chief executive, joining the board of Tata Motors at the same time. He also has a doctorate in engineering and is a professor at the University of Warwick.
“I do not claim superior knowledge of every aspect of car manufacturing,” Johnson said on the radio programme, but claimed that, when he was mayor of London, Speth expressed scepticism about the future of electric vehicles. Johnson said: “I hesitate to say this, but I think events have vindicated me on that point rather than him.”
JLR declined to comment.