We’re talking about Jaguar today. I know, again…
Last month, I felt the need to talk to you about XE, which I’ll admit made for some uncomfortable reading. But not content with establishing History Repeating© as Jaguar’s mood-music, the ‘World’s Least Influential’ Jaguar critic 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.
Since its launch a decade ago, XF has been Jaguar’s heartland model, sitting in what has become the executive sweet spot and while anything but compact is just about as large a saloon as needs be. Introduced in 2015, this second-generation XF is based on the same aluminium-intensive modular IQ platform that underpins both XE and F-Pace models as well as Range Rover’s forthcoming Velar.
XF and XE share a good deal of their respective body structures, 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. Style-wise, it’s virtually impossible to tell one from another – both employing the decade-old X250’s styling theme as visual pivot point. The rationale for this being the stated necessity to establish brand-Jaguar’s identity, a matter this scribe has taken issue with in the past. Surely the proof of the matter lies in the sales figures, so has Ralph Speth and his minions 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 something in the region of 74,000 cars and nobody’s going to convince me that’s a figure JLR’s lords and masters are satisfied with.
As we know, both XE and XF are fine 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. To JLR’s credit, new petrol and improved diesel four cylinder engines will soon be available and later in the year, an estate XF will be offered, which should enhance its appeal further. 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 development – also rumoured to be on the cards.
Journalist, Hilton Holloway, recently suggested in Autocar that JLR were considering the future of the Jaguar-branded saloon range on the back of disappointing sales. One option being to shrink the range to a single saloon line. Frankly, with numbers like these, and given the way industry winds are blowing, surely the most sensible option is to alter course entirely.
I’ve said this before as well, but it’s abundantly 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. Latterly, Jaguar seems to have abandoned its previous USP of supreme NVH isolation (now Range Rover’s remit) for a snarling aggression at odds with its warmer, cosier image, 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, opportunities for challengers are shrinking fast. It’s becoming grindingly obvious that a change in direction is required before JLR’s Jaguar-branded offerings repeat themselves into the history books.
Sales data source: Car Sales Base/ Good Car Bad Car