Danella Bagnall

F Pace Chief Product Engineer

"After a spell working on JLR’s global business expansion, in 2015 she got the call to lead the engineering for the Evoque, Jaguar Land Rover’s best‐ selling car."

Danella Bagnall’s rise to one of the most important jobs in UK automotive engineering started with an apprenticeship at Austin Rover when she was aged just 16, having ignored her school’s advice to go into banking. “I knew I didn’t want to do that,” she recalls. “My mother was a buyer in Alvis, my dad worked on the shop floor in Jaguar, and both knew about apprenticeships. It meant you could carry on your education, but also learn skills and get paid.”

She picked Austin Rover from a variety of offers because theirs was the quickest route to a degree. Visiting the firm’s plant in Longbridge, Birmingham, in 1987, she says she experienced her “pivotal moment” watching the cars come together in the vast final assembly hall. “I thought, ‘I want to know a bit more about this.’”

After completing an engineering degree at Coventry University, she returned to Austin Rover, where her first job was to improve the Rover 800’s manual seat slides. She moved to Land Rover in 1992, starting by transforming the Discovery’s rear ‘jump’ seats into conventional, forward-facing versions.

Bagnall says she’s never been particularly ambitious. “I’ve watched people work themselves into a frenzy by saying, ‘I need to be promoted by a certain age’. But it comes if you work hard and do a good job.”

The pinnacle of her career so far was when she gave the new Range Rover and Range Rover Sport their aluminium architecture. After a spell working on JLR’s global business expansion, in 2015 she got the call to lead the engineering for the Evoque, Jaguar Land Rover’s best-selling car. “I jumped at the chance,” she says. “I missed delivering cars, and the Evoque isn’t just any car.” This role has made Bagnall JLR’s first female chief engineer for a car line. After that success, she has recently been made chief product engineer for the firm’s first ever suv, the F-Pace.

She says her gender helps in getting consensus among the many departments that feed in to car development. “Women are good at reading the room and getting everybody to contribute,” she says. “Experience tells me to walk in other people’s shoes. It’s just easier. You spend a lot less time knocking heads.”

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