As our December theme chokes on the very last mince pie, we celebrate four decades of disappointment, brought to you by Jaguar.
It’s an emotion depressingly familiar to Jaguar enthusiasts from Burbank to Burnley. From the troubled post-Lyons era, the catastrophic BL years, the Egan Miracle, the Ford débâcle, to the current underwhelming JLR era. The big cat’s roaring again, the UK press delight in telling us, but is it really?
I should preface this really by pointing out that a cynic is often merely an embittered romantic, so despite the contradictions, especially given my known penchant for the Coventry kitty, I’m hard pressed to nominate a latter-day Jaguar I haven’t been disappointed by in some way, shape or form.
Take the current lineup for example. XJ apart, Jaguar’s car range consists of tentative re-workings of the current German prestige hegemony. Thanks to decades of mismanagement, Jaguar has been reduced to challenger brand status and I’m still not convinced you break through customer perceptions by slavishly aping the opposition.
Even the F-Type – a car JLR bosses cite as Jaguar’s newfound centre of gravity offers little to persuade Porsche owners to defect Coventry-wards. During their Sixties heyday, Jaguars were game-changers, yet there’s nothing in Jaguar’s current or as yet forthcoming lineup that could possibly alter the landscape – (F-Pace notwithstanding). Even their sales figures are disappointing.
Today’s Jaguars are perfectly charming cars, but what they lack is the essence of what made their predecessors special, desirable, unique. They’re not cars disappointed enthusiasts like myself can really get behind any more, and perhaps that doesn’t really matter – I’m not their target market.
So what does Jaguar represent today? A collection of memes, memories and mementos – black and white images of a past that perhaps never quite existed – a dream reality. Because the cars we remember, the ones that represent the motherlode of the marque’s iconography are now antiques.
Frankly, Jaguar represents for me an idea or perhaps an ideal that was formed at a fairly tender age, and like most such notions, is probably best left in a box marked ‘burn this’. Like all great narratives, Jaguar’s is one we want to believe in, but maybe we should just accept the fact that its never going to be what it was. Today’s Jaguar is essentially a shell – a brand name that can be applied to just about anything – as we’re soon to find out.
And yet, like some deluded penitent, still blindly clinging to his faith despite all evidence to the contrary, I still retain a nub of belief – a slim hope that Jaguar will re-ignite my enthusiasm and put the past four decades of disappointment behind me. It’s unlikely to happen, but some delusions are simply too durable to fully shake loose.