Jaguar’s decision not to give the XE an estate variant is either an expedient commercial decision or another case of History Repeating©. Which is it?
I’m sorry if this comes across as being repetitive, but like a man with a sore tooth, I seem incapable of leaving this subject alone. Anyway, I think it’s been well established that repetition is very much the leitmotif when it comes to the subject of Jaguar. Certainly Ian Callum’s statement last month that the luxury car maker had no plans to introduce estate variants elicited a certain amount of hand-wringing round these parts, not because they have traditionally formed part of the marque’s so called DNA, but more that by ruling out additional body styles, Jaguar seems to be hobbling itself.
Callum’s subsequent twitter clarification stated he in fact told journalists there would be no ‘Sportsbrake’ variant of the XE saloon, which was closely followed by well placed leaks of a forthcoming estate version of XF. Confused? Well, you’re not alone, but such are the machinations of latter-day automotive spin. So if JLR has in fact ruled out an XE Sportbrake, have their product planners concluded the volumes don’t justify the expenditure, or have they made a grave error?
Estate sales in this segment are difficult to quantify, (being mostly bundled in with those of saloons) but a glance at current sales figures does offer the following insight – model lines offering a choice of bodystyles consistently outsell those who don’t. The saloon-only XE gained just over 8000 sales in the first quarter of this year, giving Jaguar 7th place overall. Behind the XE, every rival is offered in a single bodystyle, but from 6th place Volvo S/V60 (12,412 sales) upwards, each entrant is available in multiple formats. Estates remain popular in Germany and the UK, customers it seems, liking the increased versatility and in most cases, more attractive lines, but if JLR are correct in their reading of the runes regarding the estate bodystyle, what alternative do they have?
Well, the obvious one is a coupé. Both the BMW 4-Series – (available in three body styles – Q1 sales 17,684) and the Audi A5 family – again in three flavours – Q1 sales 12,682) comfortably outsell the XE, and we can safely assume this is also the case for the Mercedes C-Class Coupe – (sales for this model also bundled into the model’s overall total). These may not be huge numbers, but they represent additional volume (and these are profitable cars) well worth having. And unlike estates, coupé’s do have a more global appeal.
Last year the European mid-sized prestige sector was worth in the region of 500,000 sales. Given a following wind, JLR are likely to shift around 30,000 XE’s throughout Europe this year. Add in the rest of the World and they might just crack 50,000 cars, which doesn’t sound like a lot. Realistically, Jaguar is unlikely to significantly grow XE’s market share with a single bodystyle. Last September, JLR’s Bob Grace told journalists; “we just want to carve a niche out for ourselves”, but you don’t spend £billions on an all-new car only for it to ‘carve a niche’.
Because the dead cat on the table here is X-Type shaped. This model failed for a variety of quite complex reasons, but one of them was that it was restricted to a single body style for the crucial early years of its life. By the time an estate was launched in 2004, the car’s sales momentum was lost. These failings Jaguar appear to be in the process of repeating here, begging the question of how JLR really views XE and what plans (if any) they have to give the car a fighting chance?
2016 Q1 sales data can be viewed in detail at left-lane.com