Chairman, VW Group UK
James graduated from Manchester University with a degree in German, followed by a postgraduate diploma in marketing and languages. In 1983 he joined a manufacturer of tableware, spending his first year working full time in the factory. At 24 he was posted to set up the company’s sales and distribution subsidiary from scratch in the German market. 3 years later he joined Ford Motor Company and held various sales and marketing positions including Sales Director of Ford Switzerland at the age of 32. James became Ford UK’s youngest regional director at 34. In 2001 he was appointed Managing Director responsible for establishing Mazda’s own company in the UK; in 2003 he was promoted to Mazda’s European headquarters near Cologne, first as Vice-President of Sales & Marketing and then, at 46, as President and CEO of Mazda Europe where he led the Company’s turnaround from loss-maker to Mazda Corporation’s most profitable business unit in the world. In 2009 James joined Volkswagen Group as President & CEO of SEAT based in Barcelona and tasked with revitalising its ailing brand. Over the following 4 years he led the complete restructuring of the company including the development of a new brand and product strategy, improving product and manufacturing quality to meet the Group’s exacting standards and introducing Spain’s first dual-vocational training programme for young apprentices. Thanks to its widely-acclaimed and award-winning Leon car, SEAT has crossed the line as a perennial loss-maker and is on course to a sustainable and profitable future, safeguarding more than 14,000 employees and over 60,000 dependent jobs across the supplier network. Since mid-2013 he has been based in Wolfsburg, Germany, and is responsible for running the VW Group’s owned national sales companies across more than 20 countries world-wide, accounting for more than 3.5 million vehicle sales with over €70 billion of turnover. James is married to Julia and has 3 children: William 24, Kate 13 and Alexander 9. He speaks 4 languages, is a keen skier, rugby enthusiast and has a passion for business, economics, change management and social mobility.
James’ participation has been made possible through Speakers for Schools partnership with the UK Automotive 30% Club and his school talks will include a focus on inspiring girls to consider opportunities in the automotive sector and encouraging all students to aim high.
He is also supporting the UK Automotive 30% Club 30/30/30 campaign.