Fate Accompli

The lessons of history are fated to be repeated – endlessly.

(c) luxurycarsworld.com

It was all going to plan. In 2002, production of the X308-series XJ ceased at Jaguar’s Browns Lane plant, after all, an all-new replacement was shortly to come on stream to replace it. However, with the decision taken and implemented, a crisis arose. Jaguar engineers hit significant hurdles in the pressing of the X350 XJ’s aluminium bodyshell, necessitating a significant delay in series production.

As it transpired, it would be another year before the XJ was launched and in the interregnum, Jaguar was absent, not only from its core market, but also its most lucrative. When the 2003 XJ did reach buyers, not only did the car itself meet with a less than rapturous reception, but a significant number of former Jaguar customers had taken their business elsewhere. Many failed to return.

It would not therefore be unreasonable to expect that Jaguar’s lords and masters learned a salutary and bitter lesson from the troubled X308 to X350 changeover during that post-millennial period, and would never place themselves in such an invidious position again.

History repeats at Jaguar, far more than it ought. In May this year, JLR announced the cessation of current-era XJ production with the final X351 model due to come down the Castle Bromwich tracks in about three weeks time. On sale for almost a decade and with sales on a relentlessly downward trajectory, the carmaker has elected not to prolong matters further. After all, a replacement is reported to be in hand.

Jaguar has been readying a new-generation XJ for some time now. This vehicle, which has an internal programme number and is believed to have been creatively signed-off has for going on two years now been reported as imminent. The latest dispatch from Autocar, that bastion of laser-accurate and hyperbole-free reporting is that it should be revealed in 2020. But surely any car this close to launch would be well into on-road proving by now, yet no reports of such activity have emerged, nor have prototypes been spotted.

The first thing worth stating here is that with matters as they currently appear, that 2020 launch date looks highly problematic. The second is the distinct possibility that the car may not see the light of day at all. Which is not to say that enthusiasm for such a model has waned, but simply that given the current reportedly febrile state of JLR finances and the wider commercial environment, the XJ programme would appear to be a luxury (vehicle) the West Midlands carmaker may not be able to afford.

But even in the best-case scenario, that of XJ being delayed, this is foolishness on toast. Because it can hardly have escaped Dr. Speth and his senior JLR management that by vacating the XJ’s market in this manner, they are in effect, ceding it. Of course an argument can be made that should it arrive to market in a couple of year’s time, being an electric model, it will not be bound by traditional rules or rivals. However, this doesn’t alter the immutable fact that one doesn’t simply abandon a marketplace without there being a cost exacted.

Life is far from easy at Gaydon at the moment, and even if the cacophony around a putative tie-up with PSA has for the moment died down, one could perhaps understand the desire to manage both expectation and disappointment.

As Jaguar’s defining and longest-lived model, there is a lot of emotional investment tied up within the nameplate, even if not everyone was a fan of the outgoing version’s appearance. The XJ nameplate is clearly too valuable for JLR to abandon entirely, but frankly the car has grown beyond all recognition and usability – especially over the past two generations.

Perhaps a recalibration of the XJ’s mission would be a fruitful endeavour, especially as Jaguar’s existing saloons appear to be floating face-down. Prior to his recent announcement to retire, Ian Callum had suggested that the next XJ should be more compact – more akin to that of the original car. That would make it roughly XF sized – no bad thing by this author’s reckoning.

Given the current situation, not to mention the sheer volume of disquieting news emanating from the Bishops Itchington triangle, it’s rather difficult to discern what exactly is signal and what is simply noise.

It may be that the foregoing merely amounts to the inverse of Autocar’s hyperbolic speculations, but nevertheless, given the ambient music, this particular automotive Cassandra would be unsurprised to learn that the XJ’s fate is already sealed – at least in the manner we currently recognise it.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

31 thoughts on “Fate Accompli”

  1. I think Jaguar needs to do the PSA merger (or something like it). Then they can average CO2 against the PSA fleet. It is a much lower risk strategy than spending billions they don’t have on electric luxury cars that no-one wants to buy. (The last thing Jaguar needs now is to take more financial and vehicle design risk.)

    In addition, in my view, luxury car companies need to be part of a larger vehicle group that covers the lower segments of the market. In an economic downturn, car sales typically drop by 30 percent, but luxury sales drop much more. The vehicle market contracts overall, but also shifts towards lower priced vehicles. The volume car lines can carry the luxury brand until the next upturn.

    A luxury vehicle manufacturer without that cushion is at risk of extinction in every major downturn. But you also need ownership that will stick with the luxury brand in the bad times, which Ford was not willing to do in 2008.

    Actually, if Jaguar wants to remain independent, they should be buying a low cost, volume manufacturer, so they have something to sell in a recession. Not “investing” billions in BS electric cars.

    1. The jury is still out on whether customers are willing to buy E Jags meanwhile Tesla in that price range has stolen the show with all others playing catch up. It’s obvious by the tone of your remarks you are not pro electric so it would be of interest to know the depth of your concerns. As a seasoned enthusiast having owned more than 150 cars of all engine types and now a convert to Evs I’m willing to provide feed back.

    2. The problem is that for electric luxury cars in the XJ segment, the market isn’t there. Tesla produces 25K S models per year and loses money on everyone of them.

      Despite the hype, battery vehicles are still less than two percent of the global vehicle market.

      Right now, no manufacturer is making money in the battery vehicle segment. Yeah, the experts assure us it will be trillions in the future, but Jaguar is on the brink of disaster, and can’t afford to take any more risks.

      Jaguar needs to produce vehicles that luxury car buyers want to buy; not vehicles that Guardian readers think luxury buyers should want to buy.

      And that’s one of the things that is so dangerous about depending on marketing studies for products like electric vehicles. Buyer intentions on environmental products is a lot like polling for Trump, Brexit, or the Australian Liberal Party. People may give you a politically correct answer, but it doesn’t necessarily determine actual behavior.

      If Jaguar wants to survive, they have to play it safe, do the PSA deal (or something like it), average their CO2 against a volume fleet, and survive to profit from the next upturn in luxury car demand.

      Taking wild gambles by borrowing billions for EV demand that may never materialize is more like the strategy of the “rogue trader” trying to cover previous losses. It is not the actions of prudent, responsible corporate managers.

    3. JLR should have taken the plunge and invested in a flexible separate chassis platform for the new Defender, which would support a wide range of vehicle formats and price points and give them sales and market coverage even in a downturn.

    4. @ Jacomo “JLR should have taken the plunge and invested in a flexible separate chassis platform for the new Defender…”

      I agree with that. And I would add that they should also have moved to a castings and extrusions based aluminum space frame structure. Only use aluminum stampings for the external panels.

      Extrusions can be incredibly flexible, as the length can be easily varied. And extrusion dies are cheap – a few thousand dollars each , vs hundreds of thousands for each stamping die.

      The entire LandRover and Range Rover line could be built on variations of a single platform of steel ladder frame, and aluminum extrusion based space frame.

      (Actually, I’d also say that the entire Jaguar car line could also be built on a similar body on frame car platform: steel frame, aluminum extrusions. But that is a discussion for another day. In any case, Jaguar needs to milk whatever value they can out of their existing car platforms.)

    5. Mr Martin: still besotted by separate chassis cars, I see. For the life of me I cannot understand why – nobody else is except US pickup truck manufacturers. Talk about flogging a dead horse. Get up Neddy, you brute, there’s still the rest of the coal delivery round to finish today! Neddy? Neddy!

      Also, you’re stuck in a US meme. Only that place lumps all a manufacturer’s vehicles into a corporate average mpg they must meet. So buying a low cost and volume manufacturer making economy cars (what non-existent company exactly would that be?) is irrelevant in Europe. Nobody knows what you’re talking about – CAFE doesn’t exist there.

    6. @Bill Malcolm. The EU will tax manufacturers based on fleet average weight and average CO2 output. Hence the potential benefit of a Jaguar PSA hookup.

      https://europe.autonews.com/automakers/automakers-risk-massive-fines-co2-target-miss-analysts-say

      As for the advantages of body on frame, if you are interested in getting past regurgitating auto magazine guff I suggest you research the following:
      -the actual weight penalty of body on frame vs the myth (suggest you start with Range Rover P38 vs L322, then Lincoln Town car vs BMW E66, and all the way back to, say, Triumph Herald vs Ford Anglia)
      -torsional rigidity of suspension control arm attachment points on body on frame; vs torsional rigidity of control arm mounts on separate subframes
      – resonant frequency of large masses attached by rubber bushings vs small masses attached by rubber bushings.

  2. An electric only luxury car, or with minimal ICE back up (to make it more able to cover really long distances than pure electric), would see a more versatile and home grown direct competitor to Tesla, and it must be said Tesla are proving to be popular cars considering the outside charging infrastructure is still in its infancy.

    A small ice engine designed purely for battery charging when capacity drops below a certain level, even if it wasn’t engaged in or capable of direct vehicle drive would make electric driven cars more desirable as able to travel indefinately even if the hoped for national charging system was down.

    In some ways a better bet for buyers than Toyotas superb hybrid system when thinking of the makers involved, there is no denying the Toyota/Lexus system is extremely reliable and durable, i’m not sure i’d want to invest my hard earned into any other maker’s full hybrid system safe in the knowledge it will almost certainly still be running perfectly 12/15 years and 250k miles later.

    Electric driven cars are more likely to find buyers in the luxury brands in my opinion, in most cases wealthy buyers will have funds space and facilities, both at their homes and places of business, to have first rate private charging facilities, something the less well off would likely not find so easy.

  3. The new XJ is clearly some way off.

    At the very least, you would expect Jaguar to at least expand the XF range to give customers somewhere to go. When the facelift is announced, is it too much to ask for new, more luxurious versions (including a long wheelbase option) fitted with their new straight six engine? This could credibly appeal to a number of XJ customers until the new car is ready.

    1. Good morning, Jacomo. A LWB XF to replace the XJ is a great idea, and it already exists in the Chinese market, with a 140mm longer wheelbase:

      I think this stretch doesn’t harm the proportions of the car significantly and it is a more conventionally handsome car than the polarising X351 generation XJ. It would also put more space between it and the underperforming XE. History would, of course, be repeating itself again for Jaguar: the LWB Series II XJ addressed the one significant drawback of the original, a lack of rear legroom.

      It might buy Jaguar some breathing space before the company bets the farm on electrification of the XJ.

    2. Thank you Daniel.

      Yes, it looks fine.

      Next question: can you fit it with armour plating and send it to Downing St for the incoming new UK Prime Minister? Oh, and ship one to Brussels too, so that ‘Believe in Britain’ Boris turns up for his doomed Brexit negotiation in a British Jaguar, rather than a Mercedes S Class?

      Just one of the weird quirks of UK life at the moment is that a lot of these charlatans who argue that Brexit will be just fine if you are patriotic enough are curiously unpatriotic when it comes to their choice of car.

      Mind you, they are clearly unconcerned about the future of the UK car industry, so perhaps they are simply pre-empting the inevitable?

    3. No need for an XFL, Jacomo: so confident is he of winning, Boris has already ordered his new Prime Ministerial car, an E-Type Shaguar:

      Groovy baby!

    4. Yeah baby yeah!

      It’s a well known fact that Angela Merkel is powerless in the presence of the Shaguar. And Macron’s wife will resent the company DS7 even more, and think a little less of her husband.

      Putting the Great back into Britain right here!

  4. Oops, we’re bound to get told off by the DTW Illuminati for getting political…

    1. No, that’s not political Daniel -the dictionary definition says ‘political’ refers to matters of governing, and nobody seems to be doing any of that at the moment. (we will be in trouble now…)

    2. Actually, the more I think about the XFL, the more it looks to me like a natural successor to the X308 XJ, rather than the somewhat bloated X350 and X351 XJ models:

      Give it a MUCH better interior, and Jaguar might have something rather appealing.

  5. I think most LWB stretches are aesthetic failures with a few rare exceptions, such as any XJ since 1979 including today’s main subject vehicle, and the current Volvo S90.

    https://www.autocar.co.uk/sites/autocar.co.uk/files/styles/gallery_slide/public/images/car-reviews/first-drives/legacy/volvo-s90lwb-394.jpg?itok=EEsYTYjS

    “I’m sneaking into this party, shhhh don’t tell anyone I’m not rear wheel drive.”

    Daniel, Jacomo, Adrian, could I convince you that JLR should leave the XF L where they make it? How about an XF with uniquely shaped rear side window frames and glass, but still sporty (as the designers intended) ?

    “I’m not flabby.”

    1. Personally I like the XF estate. Were it my money, this is where it would go (I may still consider a used one in future).

      However, here we are talking about a stop gap solution to fill in for the XJ until a new one appears. The XF L with a new cabin and some straight six engines would do the job.

  6. I suppose this Jaguar article and comment is the UK equivalent of the soul-searching ones that have been going on about Cadillac in the US for years. Irrelevant but not bad cars that no longer hew to old brand values which unsurprisingly lead to very low sales but cost a fortune to develop. The very bind Jaguar finds itself in.

    None of their cars project an unmistakeable Jaguar vibe to the great unwashed as they once did. The S and X type fiascos Ford sired also blew it over here – they sort of looked like Jags but were unmitigated junk in service. There’s nothing externally hugely special about the Jags of today that makes new customers instantly recognize them and aspire to ownership, and if they look inside, no USP there either.

    Range and Land Rovers, however, are spot on target and look the business. Probably why they sell reasonably well, constrained in quantity sales mainly by price and the unreliability factor. The I-Pace is the only Jag that stands out in a crowd beyond the F-Type, and most people haven’t a clue the latter is a Jag unless they’re close enough to read the logo. The UK situation will of necessity be different and you can’t base anything on that special case.

    If you were Tata, and facing the losses they are, plus facing the prospect of a hard Brexit with a Look at Me I’m Famous Boris the modern Billy Bunter running around like an industry-gormless clucking chicken in charge of the country in which its JLR subsidiary has its HQ, it would seem prudent to not lash out much investment for the time being. The XJ has never registered on luxury competitor’s radars because its sales are irrelevant in total world terms in any case. Difficult.

    When it comes to EVs, the only Western company which had a clue that battery supply might well be a problem was Tesla. It built its Gigafactory and secured lithium supplies while the going was clear. The other major player was the country of China, which made it a policy to corner raw material supplies worldwide early. It has been reported enough times in the business press over the years that China planned to become the world hub of battery production. Apparently VW didn’t read the press but instead sank billions on EV design and production facilities assuming buying batteries would be easy. And they were not disabused of this notion by potential suppliers eager to get their business. The last few days they’ve admitted the problems they’ve had in that regard, the delay of e-Tron introduction being caused by it, but that now they have enough batteries for a few years, some from, goodness gracious me, what a surprise, China.

    There’s absolutely no sign that the general public is enthused about EVs. They’re expensive, overweight, inconvenient to “refuel” because of charge times clogging up stations. There will be no economy brands like Dacia for some considerable time because the batteries are the major cost of any EV. Yet I see no sign whatsoever that general income has gone up enough for the purchase to be as simple and affordable as buying a Fiesta. We are still being fed guff by the dumper truck load on autonomous driving advancements as well. So in the immediate future the masses are faced with a lowering of living standards with car share schemes, renting a vehicle with someone else’s detritus left inside, autonomous Uber blobs forever circling for fares clogging up roads and wasting energy, drone delivery schemes to add to the background din, nutcases bringing out flying EVs, and no way to pay for it all. Quite dystopian to contemplate, in contrast to the PR spin promising wonderfulness all around. Probably wonderful for the relatively well-off, but no one else.

    Then there’s climate change becoming obvious – forest fires all the time in my country on one side, never before seen floods on the other, the US midwest agricultural heartland is flooded out too. So Cornflakes may be off the menu soon. France will be scorched by heatwaves this summer. We’re rushing headlong to a bad place while pretending it’s not happening for all the real urgency shown at ameliorating things. Dabbling in expensive EVs for the few is a sideshow, when soon even the denier dopes will realize something major has to be done right away if we’re to save much of anything. By 2025 the writing will be on the wall. I’m stocking baked beans already. The recession coming in a couple of years will be the first indication of real shortages of basics and the likely hell to come. Not looking forward to it.

    My adult niece is coming east to my city this fall to study for a Masters in Urban Planning and to escape the smoke. Mr Herriott’s field I think. We’ll see what the university crowd think of what’s happening societally. It surely won’t be business as usual.

    1. Bill, your comment about climate change shows that EVs are inevitable (and we have a lot more to worry about than the future prospects of JLR!)

      From a technical point of view, the advantages of EVs are compelling – zero emissions from the vehicle (making it possible to run the thing entirely on renewable energy), less mechanical complexity, easier packaging, excellent crash performance, etc.

      You rightly say that batteries are the big stumbling block right now – both supply and performance. But if this problem is cracked (perhaps the much anticipated solid state batteries) then the market will explode.

      I don’t see how JLR can’t be a player in this game. The alternative is certain oblivion.

  7. As an Ev user I find all the negative comments from non owners of electrics amusing. In six and a half years using three different cars I’ve probably charged away from home three times so the emphasis on high speed public charging or charge times is overrated. Granted there will be some that need it but its not a deal breaker.
    Bill states…. There’s absolutely no sign that the general public is enthused about EVs. This may appear so for those still in doubt or the uneducated but ask any owner and its a different story, I personally will never be without one for my main transport and this is pretty much a widespread feeling of those who use them.
    As new models are hitting the market in varying price ranges used cars are becoming available for all pockets, in those six and a half years previously mentioned I’ve only bought one new, a Leaf. presently I’m running a pre owned i3 and loving it. I like the Tesla model 3 but its not in my price range, sits too low for a couple of oldies and I’ve no need for its extra range.
    I’m lucky to have a solar array so pollution free charging at no cost with only expense being insurance.

    1. The market has spoken, and people do not want EV cars.

      The only way forward for EV makers is for governments to mandate vehicle powertrains that consumers do not voluntarily want to buy. And, of course, in many jurisdictions, that is what is happening. Although the dates are so far off they remind me of promises by politicians to balance the budget – sometime in the far distant future.

      Even there, a politically/bureaucratically determined powertrain format is a dangerous to a small company like Jaguar.

      Once vehicle engineering is determined by regulatory capture, the largest, most politically powerful global auto companies will have the playing field tilted in their direction – to the certain detriment of small companies like Jaguar.

      Small companies have a chance if they are competing based on consumer choice. Small companies lose for sure when they have to “compete” for the favour of political/bureaucratic regulators.

    2. “The market has spoken, and people do not want EV cars”
      Global sales of battery electric cars increased 73% in 2018 to 1.26 million units, after already jumping 86% the year before. That means worldwide sales of EVs jumped more than threefold in just two years time. Of course these are all new records as the market for electric cars is still in its infancy and has plenty of room to grow in coming years. With virtually every major manufacturer coming on line with EVs in the next few years and with increasing emphasis on cutting pollution the industry is evolving like it or not.

    3. The global vehicle market is almost 90 million vehicles per year. Battery vehicles are less than two percent.

      Consumers have spoken. They do not want battery vehicles. The only people who want battery vehicles are bureaucrats, politicians, and people who think everyone should be forced to buy what they, personally, prefer.

    4. “The market has spoken …”
      Are you sure you have heard its final verdict? To my ears, it is still speaking.

      Yes, EVs are not for everyone or every region, since mindset and infrastructure have to change. I’m quite sure they will. I personally will happily change to a quiet and resource-saving drive when a new car is due. Since I’m not a house owner, it still depends a little on the willingness of my landlord to support a charging station at my garage. For people parking on the street, it would be even more difficult.

    5. Hmm…

      JLR invested serious money in a new engine plant in Wolverhampton. With sales falling below expectations (in part due to the below class-leading performance of these ‘Ingenium’ engines), and no other clients, this plant must be operating below capacity.

      If JLR had invested in a battery factory instead, and signed a deal to use ICE engines from BMW or whoever instead, would the company now be in a better or worse position?

      I think the answer to that question is about to become clear.

      No doubt that EVs are still a tiny part of the market, but market share will rapidly grow. As I have said many times before, the engineering advantages of EVs are compelling. They are the future.

  8. Charging at home doesn’t require a so called charge station only a standard 13amp outlet. I recently charged at a seaside holiday cottage using an extension cord out a window. This will of course be a slower rate than a dedicated charge port with its own circuit but perfectly adequate for night periods, incidentally there is very little to a change port other than an inbuilt breaker and access for larger charge cables providing faster charging.

  9. Regarding EV charging, there are trials of using lamp-posts for this, which at least avoids digging up streets again: https://www.autoexpress.co.uk/car-news/105118/first-public-ev-charging-lamp-posts-installed-in-london

    Though I’d imagine some wiring might be quite elderly and perhaps would require upgrading to support charging currents? Then there’s the inevitable court cases from people tripping over the wires. Some noise has been made about induction charging, presumably with implants in the road surface. This would probably have issues of its own.

    Back to JLR, would FCA be interested, now that the Renault deal seems scuppered? Or would they be spreading more brands onto cars which still might not make that much headway against the Germans?

    A largely favourable review of the F-pace SVR in Auto Express noted that there was a delay of a year or so to introduce it. Which does not bode well for the new XJ.

    1. The standard lamp post is carrying a 500 to 800 Watts bulb and the wiring is designed to cope with that load.
      No try to fit a 22 kW charger to a lamp post.
      The electrical supply to housing areas is based on statistical values and is normally able to support five to ten fast chargers simultaneously – electrical power suppliers aren’t pushing smart meters for nothing, because for the the only to use the existing system is to regulate charging hours for battery powered vehicles – thereby further restricting the already extremely limited flexibility in use of said vehicles.

      Trying to charge battery EVs through inductions is leading nowhere. Induction is extremely inefficient and limited to very low electrical energy. Trying to fast charge a battery EV using induction would lead to electric/magnetic fields that would kill any wearer of a pacemaker (or any other metal object in his body) withing seconds.

      Battery EVs are suitable for niche use (short distance/inner city) and the weird thing is that politicians are hell bent on making this kind of use unattractive. That leaves usage scenarios where a battery powered vehicle is inherently unfit for use because of its limited range and its unfavourable ratio of time in use to time at the charger.
      People don’t buy battery powered vehicles because they’re stupid (even if the followers of Elon the Enlightened keep telling them they are) but because this kind of vehicle isn’t an acceptable alternative to existing cars in terms of flexibility and ease of use. Organising one’s way of life around the charging requirements of the family car is not an acceptable perspective for everyone.

    2. Oh Oh Woe is me I’m beginning to wonder how I’ve survived these last six and a half years driving electric after reading your comments, the utter inconvenience of waking to a full charge and pre heated car in the winter, or never having to queue or stand at a wind blown wet fore court paying some multi national oil giant an amount I can drive several times the distance using amps.
      I must be crazy for choosing an electric car, all this arranging my life around this Damned charging and only doing 10,000 miles over the last year… I’m glad you have enlightened me Dave anyone interested in a hardly used fully charged i3 ?

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