Consistent Cat

The XJ and F-Type represent the rearguard of traditional Jaguar formats, but while one continues its slide, the other appears to be holding firm.

Image: andoniscars

With Jaguar’s original E-Type latterly attaining the status of holy relic and given several prior attempts at reinvention, the onus on Jaguar to recreate it brooked no denial. So from its inception, F-type was intended both as an unabashed recasting, but moreover, the closest production approximation yet to Porsche’s all-conquering 911 in positioning and purpose.

Other on-paper rivals do (and did) exist, but nobody ever came close to matching the equally sacrosanct Neunelfer’s epoch-spanning appeal. When it belatedly arrived, F-Type was no bantamweight, but Jaguar’s Matthew Beaven got the looks pretty much spot-on. And as we know, when it comes to Jaguars, such matters… matter.

Introduced at the tail-end of 2012 as an open two-seater, it was joined in 2013 by what some would describe as the definitive fastback coupe version, which has since outsold the roadster by a factor of roughly 2:1. Which deftly brings us to the nub of today’s matter – sales volume. Since both body styles became available and the model found its feet, F-Type has proven a commendably consistent performer, if hardly a stellar one in numerical terms.

4557 were sold across European markets in 2015, with 4541 delivered last year. In the current year to May, sales of 2273 have been posted, a 4.1% rise over the previous year. The US market, paints a similar picture with sales of 4629 in 2015 and 4069 last year. In the current year to June, 2308 have found owners.

Image: autocarsblitz

These of course are paltry figures by comparison to the preponderant 911, of which 15,550 were introduced into the European wilds last year. But before we get carried away, lets remember the Swabians have been at this game for half a century, with over a million sold. Speaking of which, Porsche’s Baden-Württemberg neighbours’ admittedly more expensive (and questionably excessive) AMG GT offering achieved EU sales of 2372 last year and in the current year to May posted a sorry looking 48% sales slide. US sales of 541 cars (YTJ) points to a vehicle that is fast becoming even more exclusive, if for the wrong reasons. It’s an overwrought and ill-proportioned thing for sure, but this illustrates how easy it is to get the recipe wrong, even for the mighty.

Potentially bolstering F-Type’s prospects further is the Autumn introduction of a four-cylinder 2.0 litre version, which will bring the model below the £50k mark (in the UK) for the first time. JLR knows it hasn’t a hope of getting within a nautical mile of the 911 from a volume perspective, but since F-Type’s introduction the model has maintained a consistent second place, making it perhaps the most commercially successful (in market penetration terms at least) of Jaguar’s non-crossover offerings.

With the market abandoning traditional formats in dizzying numbers, JLR quite naturally would have been mad not to get on the moving train. A matter made flesh by the traditional Jaguar saloon dying a slow and seemingly ignominious death, a state of affairs it appears we simply have to learn to accept. Because if crossovers are a necessary evil (and it seems they are) then the necessity to counterbalance them with something more alluring surely comes into sharper relief.

F-Type’s (relative) success not only illustrates that JLR’s decision not to replace the XK was the correct one, but also demonstrates that when Jaguar produce cars that are recognisable as such, the market does approve. But while it was absolutely necessary to create the F-Type, now that it exists, it’s even more important to brand-Jaguar’s credibility (especially now), for it to be maintained, developed and nurtured.

Image: autocar

It is likely that the future direction for the Jaguar brand is one which is causing a good deal of heated debate at JLR towers – and justifiably so. The decision to produce Jaguar-branded crossovers is a sound commercial decision, and while F-Type’s presence in the range is probably assured, there needs to be more than one Jaguar model that appeals to the heartstrings. I hope they know that in Gaydon.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

13 thoughts on “Consistent Cat”

  1. It may not add to JLR’s bottom line the same way the 911 does to Porsche’s, but the F-type has become almost as important a marketing asset as the Neunelfer. Among the humdrum saloons (X351 excepted), F-type obviously acts as the epitomisation of the ultimate modern Jaguar.

    All of which obviously isn’t bad for a car that was conceived as a ‘quick ‘n dirty’ solution. It seems Mr Tata himself knows a thing of two about the automotive business.

    1. F-Type’s styling theme could certainly lend itself to being the epitome of the ultimate modern Jaguar if JLR did the courageous thing and commit to replacing both the slow selling XF and XJ with a single, sensual and sybaritic four-seater. If they did that (to an acceptable standard) I could countenance as many crossover CUV things as they wish to produce.

  2. I didn’t even know the X150 was discontinued. I may be getting old, but it seems it was only yesterday it was presented. And I always thought the F-Type was a pretty straightforward cut-and-shut of that platform. Why wouldn’t they update or even replace the XK if they were built from the same pieces? Seem to me it shouldn’t have been that more difficult to keept the two of them together. What was the sales of the XK?

    1. I found it. It seems there was a cutoff after the first two years, but that they had a steady sale up until its discontinuation. The cars sold in 2015-16 seems to be leftover stock from 2014. But it seems to me they could’ve continued selling in those numbers, so why wouldn’t they? Or did most of those people really want an F-type car anyway and bought the bigger 2+2 because there wasn’t anything else to buy?

      Year 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Total
      sold 6,039 5,454 4,894 4,166 3,223 3,341 492 3 27,612

    2. I know the feeling. For me memento mori is seeing a car I consider recent with rust for the first time. The X150 never “arrived” for me. It had a certain inauthenticity to it.

    1. Looking at the numbers for Europe and the US, one gets the sense that sales for this type of car fell off a cliff after the financial crash of 2007/8. Certainly, they never recovered from the slump that affected everyone around the 2009 mark. Then once the F-Type came on stream, most remaining customers migrated – those that didn’t look elsewhere.

      The luxury GT of the XK idiom still exists at an Aston Martin price, but it does appear that Jaguar were correct to make a more overtly sporting vehicle with the F-Type. The market for a suave 2+2 Jag at the XK’s price point seems no longer to be a viable one, more’s the pity. Perhaps a twin-pronged approach to F-Type’s replacement (whenever that may be) would be the way to go?

  3. I’d hardly say the F-type is well styled. It is average. Competent sure, but average.

    What is wrong? The car is too busy. Crease lines are too sharp (especially around the rear haunches). There are too many vents and intakes around at the front. The c-pillar chrome treatment screams out that an error is being covered up (which it is). Walking around one of these cars you’ll notice they look flat, very 2D. Now that’s OK for the Germans of the Japanese to do, but Jaguars should not. They once were known for looking right from every angle. Smooth. Good taste. Plenty of subtlety. Graceful and feline this car aint! It looks just like the product of all those other CAD jockey “stylists”. Where have the great designers gone? Instead the industry seems to be blighted by undergraduates marking out of “design school” in prodigious quantities. These critters are everywhere. Dare it be said, but this car looks German. And THAT is not right for Jaguar.

    What is right? The car is in the right niche for a Jaguar. It is one that Jaguar ought never to have vacated all those years ago. There is also potential to develop this shape over time. It can be smoothed, improved and teased into something much better. While not great, in the sense that the C-types, D-types and E-types were, it has potential.

    This car is a flawed piece though. It is well over-weight and has many engineering compromises made for expediency (hard to believe anyone would make some of these choices on the basis of believing they were technologically best). So, adequate for now, but certainly not great.

    As for the XJ, well the reason that thing is taking a dump is that it is not really a Jaguar. Yes, I know it has the badge and the labels festooned upon it, but really, take a look at it. It has limited appeal really. Why would anyone purchase a Germanesque sedan from a fringe producer with lingering reputation of unreliability, high service costs and the possibility that the company won’t necessarily be in existence in future? The likes of Audi and Mercedes and VW and even BMW do a far better job of producing large German sedans, some of which mirror the Jaguar in terms of bad styling and poor taste. They are already there and doing it. Not a successful plan to ape them.

    Jaguar needs to produce an XJ which seduces the purchaser, even though he knows he is taking a bit of a risk with his purchase. An XJ ought to be like a love affair. There is frisson, a risk, a reward and emotion. It is a car that needs to be the object of admiration, appreciation, affection, desire, love even. Now take a look at the present XJ and tell me you can see how that could possible happen.

    SUV? Really? May as well make pick-ups and trucks since that’s what everyone else is doing. As is well said, stick to your knitting. Long past time to do that and do it well.

    1. Thanks for your comment Ratu. While no apologist for the current custodians of the marque, or indeed its designers, I think of the cars that have been created latterly, the ‘F represents (for me at least) the best approximation of Jaguar style to see production. It’s far from ideal, but given that it was created on the hoof, so to speak, and from a compromised platform, it’s a reasonable effort to these eyes at least.

      The current XJ is a design I admire, (for all its flaws) but I agree it was the wrong direction to have taken with the model. I don’t say that in hindsight by the way, I sounded a cautionary note when the car was launched in 2009.

      While it seems obvious to us armchair product planners the direction brand-Jaguar should be taken, JLR’s lords and masters either have data to suggest why a reversion to a more romantic style won’t work, or are ideologically hellbent on their present course. The unfortunate thing is that while the sales figures back up their drive to crossovers, it will only strengthen the hands of those who advocate them as the brand’s salvation.

      Frankly, we’re well outside the Kansas borders when it comes to Jaguar now anyway, I’m sorry to say. I can’t see them finding their way back now. Too much has been lost along the way.

  4. Eoin

    I was less than impressed with the latest XJ when it was launched in the UK. When I came back here and saw the first import a few months later I knew I had been right about it. It is not a Jaguar. By the way, I did not rate its predecessor either (bloated disappointment in aluminium that one was).

    There is (was) a way out. Brand name: Daimler. Careful (and subtle) rework in a some areas and call it a Majestic Major. Then get to work on designing a really beautiful XJ to compliment it a little down the range.

    I’d say the JLR have no idea what a Jaguar is. They sure are hellbent on their present coarse (sp deliberate). It is likely that key personalities departed in the time of Ford. The succession was interrupted and, as you say, too much was lost. Worse, the new blood were products of the latest approaches to building skills, knowledge and competences in that they were trained, not educated. Perhaps management think that characteristic defines their customer base as well.

    I’ll have to have a think about whether or not Jaguar can get back from wherever it is they are headed presently. More later perhaps.

    Thanks for a stimulating article and comments.

    Regards

    R

    1. Ratu: The Daimler idea is one that re-emerges from time to time. There were recent mutterings about a revival based on the existing 351 structure. JLR own the rights to the Daimler name, but have been prevented from using it in the United States for decades, which would pose a problem. Also, now that the mighty Benz have re-appropriated the name, I suspect JLR would be reluctant to use it again, although in the current climate, having customers mistake your brand for the three pointed star mightn’t hurt. A similar solution was posited by Jaguar in the 1960’s when the Mark 10 tanked – the notion being to use the Daimler 4.5-litre V8 in the Zenith body and to market it as a Daimler. Both ideas had/have merit, albeit in this case, I consider it unlikely. History repeats…

      I don’t believe JLR management are acting out of anything other than marketing necessity with brand-Jaguar. Rather than suggesting they don’t know what a Jaguar is/should be I would suggest they have concluded that what Jaguar used to be is no longer relevant for their ambitions. They have Range Rover for that now, which can be sold with much bigger margins and its appears, the sky is the limit as to where its ambitions lie.

      JLR have no other usable car brand in their portfolio (they won’t use Rover), so they are trying to navigate the tricky pathway of moving Jaguar into the volume market, while attempting to maintain some exclusivity. While it’s lamentable and to those who love the marque, unedifying, this is how I view things as they currently stand.

      I suspect we are in broad agreement as to what a Jaguar should be. In my view, there hasn’t been a Jaguar saloon that adequately matched the criteria since XJ40. I suspect we might even agree in principle as to how this situation can be addressed. But the main reason why I can’t conceive it happening is that I don’t believe the willingness to do so exists at Ralph Speth level. Not because he has some vendetta against Jaguar, or that he doesn’t ‘get it’, but more that doing so simply doesn’t fit the JLR plan.

  5. Good Morning Eoin

    I concur with you on much. Where we are apart in respect of JLR management. That they do not understand what a Jaguar is has been demonstrated by the “plan” they have been executing for the marque. Jaguar has never been a mass market brand in the sense they seem to be seeking. For a start there is no way to maintain its exclusivity while moving it into commonality. Those are directly in opposition. To achieve one necessarily means failing to achieve the other.

    Secondly, there remains no reason for a purchaser to direct his money towards a me-too copy of something others are already providing and providing in superior fashion to anything Jaguar is going to be able to do. The Germans are already doing the German sedan warts and all capably enough. Ditto the Japanese. In trying to duplicate the attributes and qualities of those other marques the elements which made the XJ special are diluted or gone, missing in action.

    You are right about XK40. That and certain of its progeny were the last of the good.

    What finished me with Jaguars was when the NVH went to hell. I was shocked at how quickly they went bad. And as for that “Ford” V-8 rumbling away in front of the dash…

    Cheers

    Ratu

  6. One thing would improve F-Type sales no end: a better ride. I have never driven a 911, but reviews often mention the car’s compliance and the ease with which it settles into a rhythm on challenging roads. As edifying as the F-Type undoubtedly is, I found it a hamfisted device in those circumstances.

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