We’re talking about Jaguar today. I know, again…
Last month, I felt the need to talk to you about XE, which given the circumstances, made for some pretty uncomfortable reading. But not content with establishing History Repeating© as Jaguar’s mood-music and brand leitmotif, your ‘World’s Least Influential’ Jaguar critic (or WLIJC for short) is drilling deeper still by repeating himself thematically. Not I might add because he necessarily wants to, but because he finds it cathartic and more to the point, his editor told him to.
Frankly, I had intended to give this tune a miss, as I’m sure you’re all sick to death of hearing it by now, but a recent (and comparatively rare) sighting of the example pictured above prompted further rumination as to why I find it such an unsatisfying thing. But lacking a ‘Herriot’s-eye’, I found myself struggling to articulate this in a coherent manner. In its stead therefore, I’ve elected to examine the model’s recent fortunes and how these are likely to influence JLR’s ongoing policy towards brand-Jaguar. [Spoiler alert. Everyone dies]
Since its launch a decade ago, XF has become Jaguar’s heartland model, sitting in what has become the executive sweet spot and while anything but compact is just about as large as any European needs a car to be. Introduced in 2015, this second-generation XF is based on the same aluminium-intensive modular platform that underpins both XE and F-Pace models as well as Range Rover’s forthcoming Velar product.
XF and XE share a good deal of their body structure, along with engines, running gear and much external style. Dimensionally, only 12.5 cm separate them in wheelbase, 1.6 cm in width, 4.1 cm in height and 28.2 cm in overall length, most of which lies aft of the b-pillar. Design-wise, it’s virtually impossible to tell them apart; both cars employing the decade-old X250’s styling theme as reference point. The rationale for this being the stated necessity to establish brand-Jaguar’s visual identity. In March 2015, following the current car’s announcement, your WLIJC had this to say on the matter. “In all the decades of same again XJ styling, has there been a new Jaguar that has done as little to move the styling aesthetic onward?” Surely the proof of the matter lies in the sales figures, so has Ralph Speth and his minions’ ‘lets do it like we did in Munich’ modus been proven correct?
On current form, no. XF sales are stagnating, stalled at similar levels to the run-out volumes of its predecessor. One would expect a decent uplift with the advent of an all-new model, but not only does there appear to be little evidence of this, European XF sales for 2016 are in fact down on the previous year. The current model was introduced into the US market last spring and in 2016, clocked up sales of 6665 cars, up slightly from 5933 in 2015. Combined European and US sales for the XF model come to 22,689 cars.
Add in a few thousand from Canada and similar numbers from China and Australasia and you’re probably looking at global sales of roughly 30,000 units for a brand new model line. Adding XE sales to the mix and we get about 74,000 cars and nobody’s going to convince me that’s a figure JLR’s lords and masters are satisfied with. Without the additional volume from F-Pace and Velar, JLR’s huge investment in this new modular platform would be looking shaky indeed.
As we know, both XE and XF are good cars, well received by the press and lauded for their road behaviour and overall competence. Both however lack a certain indefinable sparkle and this deficiency is particularly apparent in both model’s dreary interiors – a matter we’ve covered previously, so in this case I’ll spare you the repetition(!) To JLR’s credit, new petrol and improved diesel four cylinder engines are now available and later this year, an estate XF will be offered, which should enhance the model’s appeal. We can expect additional variants – in particular a macho V8 SVO model at some point as well, although a thorough reworking of the interior ambience and material quality would be a more useful innovation – also rumoured to be on the cards.
Journalist, Hilton Holloway, writing for Autocar recently suggested that JLR were considering the future of the Jaguar-branded saloon range on the back of the disappointing sales performance of their vaunted compact and medium offerings – in addition to evaporating XJ sales. One option being to shrink the range to a single saloon line. Frankly, with numbers like these, and given the way the industry winds are blowing, surely the most sensible option is to alter course entirely.
I’ve said this before as well, but its clear that not enough people want the saloon cars brand-Jaguar are offering. There is a strong argument to suggest a function of this is styling-related, but there is a more fundamental issue as I see it. In latter years, Jaguar has abandoned its previous USP of supreme NVH isolation (now Range Rover’s remit) for a snarling aggression at odds with its warmer, cosier image. Brand Jaguar then has something of an identity crisis; none of which would matter if this new course was yielding dividends. The sales figures however, present a different story.
With the auto market now hardening into entrenched positions, the opportunities for challengers is lessening by the day. It’s become grindingly obvious to this uninfluential critic that Jaguar’s saloon car goose is dangerously close to being cooked. A change in direction is required and soon, before JLR’s Jaguar-branded offerings repeat themselves into the history books.
Sales data source: Car Sales Base/ Good Car Bad Car