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.
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.
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.
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.