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Jaguar Land Rover CEO steps down

NEW YORK — The head of Jaguar Land Rover has left the British luxury carmaker.

A company spokesman yesterday declined to elaborate on the reasons behind the departure of CEO David Smith. Ravi Kant, vice chairman of Jaguar Land Rover’s parent company Tata Motors Ltd., will take over Smith’s duties until a permanent successor is found.

Smith was installed in 2008 after India-based Tata bought Jaguar Land Rover from Ford Motor Co. The June 2008 acquisition cost Tata $2.3 billion.

But money-losing Jaguar Land Rover has been weighing on Tata ever since. In November, Tata said the unit lost 60 million pounds ($96.6 million) during the quarter ended Sept. 30, even as Tata as a whole swung to profitability.

To stop the bleeding, Jaguar Land Rover has cut about 2,500 jobs in the past year, frozen pay and canceled bonuses. In September, the company announced it would close one of its factories in England, angering unions there.

However, sales of the company’s high-end sedans and SUVs have held up despite the weak global economy. Sales in the U.K., its biggest market, rose 34.2 percent in the September quarter to 14,400 vehicles. China sales grew 2.1 percent to 3,400 vehicles.

Sales in the U.S. have declined, though less than the broader auto industry. The company got a much-needed boost last March when J.D. Power gave the Jaguar nameplate its top award for vehicle dependability.

At the time, company executives said Jaguar’s quality reputation had been suffering in the U.S., but it had been pouring resources into improving vehicle technology and design.

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