We conclude our Jaguar X-Type ruminations
For the Ford Motor Company, not only X-Type but Jaguar itself had become an unsustainable liability. Having invested $billions chasing rainbows, they’d seen only deepening pools of red ink and the prospect of never-ending financial dependency. It was time to cut their losses. Nevertheless, something clearly needed to be done with X-Type, clearly any volume being preferable to no volume at all.
In 2007 it was inexpensively facelifted. By then it had been withdrawn from the US entirely, only the 2.2-litre diesel and 3-litre petrol models available elsewhere. Following the financial crash of 2008, X-Type experienced a mild sales resurgence, buoyed by its refreshed appearance and generous deals available to cash-strapped customers. Now something of an embarrassment for Jaguar bosses, Jaguar MD, Mike O’ Driscoll when asked about X-Type by a journalist at a press dinner for the XF in 2009, quipped, “Do we still make it? I’d like to put a stake through its heart.”
Newly formed JLR was also producing Freelanders at the Halewood plant, the Land Rover sharing a great deal of componentry with X400. With the architecturally similar Range Rover Evoque about to begin pilot production the following year, time ran out for the X-Type in late 2009. No tears were shed, but a great many commentators subsequently queued up to inform the world how they’d called it from the beginning – the majority of whom lauded it to the skies in 2001.
Now, some five years after the X-Type’s rendezvous with the eternal, perhaps enough heat has dissipated to review the car in a more measured fashion. X400 was well received at first, but its styling proved ephemeral and its allure quickly faded. It was severely hampered by its US-centric positioning, lack of engine choice and initial lack of alternative body styles. Its swiftly-gained reputation for mechanical frailty killed its chances in the US market it was squarely aimed at.
Once sales plateaued around 2003, Ford starved it of development, allowing it to stagnate even further. Damningly, the 2000 Mondeo from which 19% of the X-type was derived has proven to be a design with greater appeal and longevity, proving more appealing to more buyers than its more expensively developed and priced Jaguar derivative. In fact, for many, the Mondeo remains a preferable choice.
It’s a little pointless throwing stones now, so asking whether it was Jaguar’s compliance or Ford’s arrogance that sowed the seeds of the X-Type’s failure is in some ways academic. However, the blue oval really cannot be absolved from a large portion of responsibility. Ford’s product planners misread the luxury car market – not just with the X-Type, but crushingly with the contemporary XJ saloon.
Given the rival Alfa Romeo 156 was created from elements of a Fiat Marea platform, yet is justifiably regarded as an acknowledged styling classic, it wouldn’t have been beyond Jaguar’s capability to come up with something gracefully modernist. (The other stylistic elephant in the room being Mazda’s superbly elegant Xedos 6). In truth, by then just about everyone was doing Jaguars better than Jaguar was permitted to themselves.
Instead, the X-Type’s finer qualities were overshadowed by its disappointing appearance and lack of body and engine choice. Over-eager, Ford executives rushed the car into production believing it would sell just by dint of its badge. But no matter what is said in the car’s defence, the one inescapable fact remains – the X-Type – (a car Jaguar didn’t particularly want) – gave Jaguar volume, but lumbered them with costs that would cripple them as a business, and play a pivotal role in Ford’s decision to offload the marque to Tata in 2008.
Next year’s Jaguar XE will attempt to bury X-Type’s legacy once and for all, but like a ghost at the cocktail party, X400 continues to haunt them. Ian Callum recently providing this neat summation; “If the design had been strong enough, the Ford platform could have been forgotten, but nobody was in love with the car and the press had a swipe at it.” The forthcoming XE now has it all to do, but this time, failure will not be an option.
So what can we add to Callum’s definition of the X-Type? A car that continues to give Jaguar executives nightmares, perhaps best described as a perfectly pleasant car, but a decidedly second-rate Jaguar, and we can’t be having too more of those.
Credits: See Part 1