Last of England [3]

Understanding the X-Type.

Does X stand for expedience? Image: Autocentrum.pl

Given the unprecedented levels of investment, and the expectations of both maker and benefactor, the X-Type had a good deal of heavy lifting to do. Its eventual failure not only cost Jaguar dearly, it set the carmaker back to such an extent that it never truly recovered. X-type was commissioned with one overarching mission, to more than double Jaguar’s sales volumes, transforming the carmaker as a serious player in the luxury car market, especially in the US, where these cars had historically sold in large quantities. But the X400 misfired, falling well short of projections, and as it would transpire, fiscal break-even. How so?

A moment, if you will. Lest the following reads as a full-throated orgy of blue oval bashing, we should first exact the following proviso:

While Ford’s management deserves a good deal of the collateral opprobrium over their stewardship of the leaping cat, they also deserve a good deal of credit. Much of the $billions poured into Browns Lane and Whitley was to Jaguar’s benefit, as a good many insiders have attested. Build integrity and durability became at the very least, class-competitive for the first time and if the cars were somewhat old-fashioned in appearance, they were entirely modern where it mattered.

Furthermore, once Ford management realised how badly they were mishandling Jaguar, they sanctioned the X150 XK, X250 XF and X351 XJ – all progressive cars that were not only credible, but looked it. But regrettably before this came to pass, a good many unforced errors had first to be made.

In 2008, former design chief Ian Callum made the rather sensational statement to the UK’s Financial Times newspaper alleging that the X-type was essentially designed in Detroit and was presented to the Jaguar board as a fait accompli. Now, while this has a faint whiff of exaggeration to it (Callum was not at Jaguar when the X400 was being scoped or designed), his strong links within the Ford organisation at the time probably means he was, if not privy to the machinations of the period, at least made aware of them.

With the benefit of hindsight, Ford’s product planners appear to have misread the luxury car market, to a greater or lesser extent with each of Jaguar’s saloon models of the period, but with X-Type in particular. There seemed to be an over-emphasis on doing it by the book; strategists employing a Ford-based checklist system to define features and benchmarks; fine when scoping consumer durables, but less helpful when one is attempting to create an object of desire.

Jaguar’s strategists seemed caught between stools, requiring sales volume to amortise the costs associated with the programme, but at the same time unable (or unwilling) to specify the car in a manner that would encourage them, most specifically in European markets.

The X-Type represented a huge missed opportunity for Jaguar in Europe. There was a good deal of residual affection for the brand and an affordable offering, specified in a manner that suited local conditions should have sold in respectable numbers, but the emphasis on the US market appeared to have blindsided Jaguar’s planners until far too late. The X-Type’s pricing also being somewhat on the cheeky side for what it was.

Part of the X-Type’s mission was to reduce the median age of Jaguar customers. This too was to prove a thwarted ambition, largely because the rationale which attracted more mature buyers to the car led the 30-45 age cohort, who weren’t especially keen on something that looked like their dad’s Jag, to reject the somewhat ersatz X-Type in favour of more dynamic looking rivals with more street credibility and stronger branding.[1]

At this time, the Ford Motor Company, under the leadership of Jac Nasser appeared to be dispensing money in all directions, amongst the most profligate being the ill-starred Grand Prix programme, an attempt to infuse brand-Jaguar with the glamour and allure of Formula One. Jaguar had no heritage in the arena, so not only was it an uncomfortable shoehorn-fit, it had little real chance of success.

When the X-Type was being conceived, popular media was suffused with elements and iconographs of Sixties culture, be it within rave culture, fashion, music or film. Car design too had been of a reflective nature for some time, with many carmakers seeking new meaning from the designs of the past. In this, Jaguar were perhaps slightly ahead of the curve, having adopted this approach well before it became a ‘thing’.

However, there was a paradigm-shift occurring, one which would be turbocharged by geopolitics, the rise of the internet and of Big Tech. In 2001 Apple Inc revolutionised everyone’s relationship with interactive digital technology with the introduction of itunes and the ipod. An invasive species began seeping inexorably into our lives without our full understanding, but with our wholehearted consent.

Couple this with the events of September 2001 in the United States, not to mention the already parlous state of the US economy and the world the X-Type was entering had turned on a sixpence.

And so to confront the elephant in the room, the fateful ‘M-word’: This is something of a conflated issue, specifically the implication that it was somehow infradignitatum for Jaguar to adopt a front-driven layout, one taken from a lowly Ford Mondeo no less. The. Holy. Mortifying. Shame. Viewed in these simplistic throwaway terms, the barb can reasonably be dismissed as palpable nonsense, both in itself and especially when other prestige carmakers did likewise without a squeak of protest.

But not quite so fast: Where the argument gains traction is when one considers what compromises the CD platform hard points dictated upon the nascent X-Type. These enforced an East-West layout, limiting Jaguar to transaxle powertrains, and a compulsory all-wheel-drive layout, also ladling needless weight and complexity. This in turn led to packaging difficulties, and a problematic drivetrain from an NVH and durability perspective – each compromised solution leading on to the next.

The hard points also established the position of the windscreen relative to the front axle (that all-important dash-to-axle ratio), enforced a longer front overhang, placing limitations upon the designers who had to visually minimise it;[2] these factors, combined with an enforced change in dimensions lent the resultant design a somewhat unhappy, truncated appearance.

But isn’t the art of car design about working within set limitations and somehow transcending them? Jaguar’s designers were anything but untalented,[3] so it was not beyond their capabilities to produce something gracefully modernist. But a combination of a restrictive creative brief and a hidebound set of decision-makers put paid to any such ideals. So was the X-Type’s styling the fatal error?

It is important here to make a clear distinction. There was little wrong with the X-Type’s styling theme, apart from it being somewhat on the conservative side. Yes, if one wishes to be critical, there was rather too much of it, as though management looked at the styling model and demanded, ‘add more Jaguar!’[4] But this aside, given the brief they were handed, Wayne Burgess and his team did a good job.

The problem with the car’s appearance has everything to do with the platform that underpinned it and the inescapable fact that Jaguar’s design team were unable to transcend or adequately mask it. What remains is a tidy looking car with unhappy proportions, an unfortunate stance and a somewhat lumpen appearance. On a different set of hard points, we might now be viewing the X with more sympathetic eyes.

This aspect becomes particularly acute because by then, just about everyone was enacting more convincing Jaguar impressions than Jaguar were themselves. Nevertheless, whatever one’s view of X400’s appearance (and some admire it), one has to concede that the styling proved ephemeral and its appeal quickly faded.

But crucially, either for reasons outlined above, or otherwise, the X-Type failed to appeal to the North American customer, the market the car was primarily targeted towards. This, more than any other factor sealed its fate.

The X-Type (a car they didn’t ask for or necessarily want), gave Jaguar scale, but lumbered the business with excess capacity, huge levels of complexity[5] and fixed costs that would cripple them, playing a decisive role in Jaguar’s lack of viability and Ford’s inevitable decision to offload the marque in 2008.

It is also possible to argue that the experience traumatised Jaguar’s management, making them on one hand more risk-averse and yet by curious irony, allowing conditions to arise where almost exactly the same mistakes were made a generation later with a vastly different suite of hardware. Because say what you will about the current XE, it comes across very much as X-Type redux.[6]

A classic case of starting out with bad directions? Perhaps. Given the level of ingenuity required for Jaguar’s engineers to make such a series of compromises work, it was testimony to them that X-Type turned out to be what it was – a thoroughly capable, broadly competent product – a wholly pleasant car, but neither a demonstrably better, nor significantly nicer one than its more established rivals.

When you buy a historic brand like Jaguar you have a choice – nurture it largely as is or attempt to bend it to your will and ambition. Ford chose the latter and Jaguar broke in the attempt. Was that Ford or Jaguar’s fault? It probably doesn’t matter now.

The argument over the X-Type will rage for generations. Those who own and enjoy the cars will continue to vehemently defend them. Those who view X400 as an abomination will never see beyond their equally entrenched position. But a lot of ground exists between those opposing polarities – one just don’t see it written down very often.

But if Ford senior management’s understanding of the luxury sector remains open to debate, beyond argument is that from a purely creative and product perspective, the blue oval simply did not sufficiently understand how to create an object of desire.

This meant that the brief was wrong, the programme therefore becoming bedevilled by expedience, and scuppered by crippling fixed costs. More damning still, on the basis of sales performance alone it is very difficult to see a compelling commercial rationale for the car at all.

Jaguar has always been at heart a specialist, low-volume carmaker. Pursuing a growth strategy based on the idea of producing what amounted to Jaguar-flavoured cars was destined to failure. Ford management failed to understand this, believing that they could create a powerhouse, BMW-rivalling brand around the leaping cat on a budget. They were wrong.[7]

Image credit: (c) motordesktop

Ian Callum, who stated that he was “disappointed” when first shown the finalised X400 design in 1999 provided the following summation of the X-Type for Jaguar World Magazine a number of years ago: “If the design had been strong enough, the Ford platform could have been forgotten, but nobody was in love with the car and the press had a swipe at it.

Is that enough of an epitaph?

Strange what desire will make foolish people do”. On second thoughts, perhaps Chris Isaak put it best.

 

o0O0o

[1] This author fell within the X-Type’s target age group in 2001, and still vividly recalls the acute disappointment he felt with X400’s appearance at launch. Coming on the back of the 1998 S-Type, the immediate post-millennium period was a very depressing time to be a Jaguariste.

[2] Amongst the limitations inherent in this aspect of the original X-Type’s design was the car’s ‘stoved-in’ grille treatment; the ‘over-bite’ a visual means of minimising the frontal overhang.

[3] We ought not forget that Wayne Burgess was the lead exterior designer for the Aston Martin DB9, a car rightly acknowledged as a styling masterpiece.

[4] Ford’s checklist approach appeared to run to styling as well; Julian Thomson once being quoted that Ford had produced a Jaguar style guide for designers; a kind of click-a-cue catalogue for an insta-Jag. Just add water. Ah, easy for Sir William…

[5] This scattergun approach would see Jaguar overseeing three separate manufacturing sites, none of which would, as it would transpire run to capacity. Furthermore, by 2001 they were producing four distinct product lines, each on entirely unrelated platforms.

[6] The subsequent (even worse) sales performance of the XE model, the X-Type’s lineal successor, developed by JLR from first principles at vast expense on a bespoke aluminium rear-drive platform, only lends further weight to this contention.

[7] They weren’t the last either. 

One could make the argument that in the fullness of time, the X-Type’s fixed costs at Halewood were amortised by the success of Land Rover’s successive EUCD-based offerings – Freelander 2, Discovery Sport and Evoque. However, tell that one to Ford, who never saw a penny of it.

 

©Driven to Write. All rights reserved.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

50 thoughts on “Last of England [3]”

  1. The estate looked great, in my view. If you like the kind of thing Lancia did with the Lybra then the X-type wagon is for you. Were I to have access to DTW´s corporate credit card, I´d send our best photographers and Mr Doyle off to Maggiora to to a comparison of the Lybra and X-type wagon, perhaps specificying the five-cylinder for the Lancia and a four (was there one?) for the Jaguar. Which would win? I don´t think that it´d be anything other than a close call, possibly dependent on how much store you set by on-the-margins handling. I would assume the Jaguar would do well there. Would the Lybra be able to live up to it Alpine heritage and keep up on ascending hairpins?

    Note to Eoin: at some point, according to Section 5.3.4 of DTW´s style guide the words “much-loved” need to come in to this article.

  2. Dear Eóin

    Once again, so many aspects of this third chapter on the Jaguar X400 speak from my heart. In my opinion, no one before has better portrayed this strategic and planning odyssey.

    Already while reading the first two pieces, I kept recalling the Jaguar X760 (aka Jaguar XE). Considering what you said, its role in the current Jaguar product range virtually resembles that of a déjà vu. So I couldn’t help but applaud inwardly when I reached your third part and found that cross-reference.

    Conquering that premium segment dominated by the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4 seems almost like a forbidden fruit for Jaguar. Twice attempted and both times a resounding failure. With the subtle difference that the first attempt was obviously based on ticking off a checklist from Ford, whereas Sir Ralph Speth’s second approach was obviously relying on a set of ancient documents from his time at BMW.

    In my opinion, the responsible managers in both cases had failed due to the same symptoms: the obvious lack of understanding for the Jaguar brand or for the very special blend that is ultimately decisive for the creation of a brand-specific object of desire.

    Seen in this light, the strategic reorientation of Jaguar decided upon in these months gives quite justified cause for hope. Thierry Bolloré does not appear to me to attempt to manage the Jaguar brand with the aide of checklists generated from other sources (in that case, from Renault). Instead, this is the first time in a veritable long period that a manager has taken on this role who obviously brings with him a degree of genuine culture, a deep sense of aesthetics and visionary thinking that cannot be acquired in a management school, but is essential for the successful management of brands that merely exist by virtue of their desirability.

  3. Good morning Eóin. I’ve been very much looking forward to reading your conclusion to the the X-Type series and you have not disappointed. Much has been written previously about the failure of this car, but nothing I have read captured the complexities of the story in such a thoughtful, nuanced and balanced way.

    I am left wondering if the problem Ford faced with Jaguar didn’t begin in 1968 with the wonderful, peerless XJ. That car defined the perception of Jaguar so absolutely that the marque became becalmed in stylistic terms. The Series III update and subsequent XJ40, while highly competent, represented very little progress, and what progress had been made was reversed in the X300 and X308 facelifts, undeniably handsome though they were. In effect, Jaguar was still building a car styled in the mid-1960’s almost forty years later, and continued to do so with the X350.

    When Jaguar finally broke out of this stylistic straitjacket with the X351 XJ, it was such a giant leap forward that many traditional (and older) Jaguar customers were repelled by it, but Jaguar had failed to nurture a younger demographic with progressive, evolutionary design in the preceding decades, so it failed.

    The XF Mk1 was successful (in Jaguar terms) because it was quite unlike anything being made at the time by the German premium trio. When Jaguar then tried to challenge its German rivals directly with the XE and XF Mk2, the market demurred.

    It is really difficult to know where aJaguar should go next. Perhaps the promised wholesale switch to EVs will prove go be the marque’s salvation, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it (as Jaguar is doing, having no alternative path to follow).

    1. “In effect, Jaguar was still building a car styled in the mid-1960’s almost forty years later, and continued to do so with the X350.” Quote
      But isn’t this exactly what BMW did in 2001 with their MINI – and somehow they got away with it, in spite of exaggerating the worst of the Minis’ features (the central speedo and the unreliability ).

    2. True, Mervyn, but the XJ was ‘establishment’ whereas the Mini was ‘swinging sixties’. The marketing of the latter was genius too, distracting attention from the original BMW Mini’s numerous shortcomings.

    3. I’d like to echo Daniel’s thoughts on how well this story has been told – really excellent – thank you.

      I can’t help but think it ironic that trying to achieve economies of scale forced an unnecessarily high spec on the X-Type.

      Will the switch to EVs be Jaguar’s salvation? Given recent evidence with the withdrawal of their new, large saloon, it appears that they have yet to find the direction they want to head in. That said, if the new saloon was duff, at least they had the sense to realize.

    4. So, in essence, Jaguar’s visual identity became imprisoned into a certain image that no one was willing to evolve or change. I understand that no one wanted to alienate the brand’s “traditional” clientele, but the people who were in their 40s when they bought their S1 XJs were already pushing 60 when the XJ40 was launched, and, by the time the X400 was launched, they had either had their driver’s licenses revoked due to old age, or moved to cozy, if somewhat cramped, accommodations with a nice view of the daisies’ roots. With all this, I’m beginning to think that Ford and Jaguar were trying to appeal to buyers that were, in all likelihood, pining for the fjords and, therefore. As for their offspring, I agree that the assumption that they wanted something resembling “their dad’s Jag” was misguided, if not downright delusional.

    5. There is one more thing, Jaguar were so late to their own party that the vein they were mining was practically dry of fresh ore. What could they add to this long running design conversation that hadn’t been said already, ad infinitum?

      Here’s Chrysler’s 1994 “cab forward” interpretation of a sexy Jag, I like the curve of the backlight, so Mk 2/ Mk X, yet fresh and modern.

      Ford, as was their wont, transposed some Jaguar cues down the line, such as to Lincoln (see also the 1998 Town Car, equally inspired by Moray Callum’s Town Car based Lagonda Vignale as it is by Jaguar, quite British and rotund for a Lincoln.)

      1992 Nissan Leopard J-Ferie/Infiniti J30, designed by Jerry Hirschberg, formerly of GM:

      And the arguably most sensual* interpretation, refreshingly lacking in creases, slashes, and “character lines”, also from the extended Ford universe. My favorite car that could have been designed by Fergus Pollock :

      * It was called “Sentia” in Japan. Design credited to: Dori Regev, Shunji Tanaka (1988).

  4. Thank you Eóin for this excellent series, it’s been a joy to read, despite the slightly sad subject (automotive failures are always sad to me), but very informative.

    As for the X-Type, well at least they tried to design something distinctive. Its spiritual successor, the XE, is so bland and nondescript that I had to briefly look it up this morning before writing these lines. The first thing I was surprised to learn is that it’s originally a 2015 model year car! From seeing them in the streets, almost all in boring colours, I thought it was a 2010 design that I somehow missed. Not only does the XE look like it could accept any badge, it looks old, like a design frozen for many years before given the green light for production. A little bit like what happened with the current Mondeo, which by the time sales started in Europe, it had been on sale in the US for three or four years. By the time it got here, it felt like what bread baked in the morning feels like in the evening: kind of fresh, but not perfect anymore. To me the XE is two-day old bread… from the supermarket. The other thing that surprised me about the XE is that it’s rear-wheel drive and has a sophisticated aluminium structure, so technically it’s right there with the best. The rear-wheel drive though, is not evident to me from the design. It looks strangely neutral and could easily be front-wheel drive.

    Now Jaguar makes more SUVs and crossovers than saloons (three models versus two) and even they look more exciting than the saloons. To me, the only really cool Jaguar at this moment is the F-Type.

    1. I knew a couple of guys here in Germany who chose X Types as their company cars. Jaguar had a mystique and desirability about them around the turn of the century that none of the usual suspects could match, so the idea of an affordable Jag made the X Type a tempting prospect. Like most of the population who don‘t inhabit motoring websites, they knew nothing about the extensive use of Mondeo oily bits and probably wouldn‘t have cared anyway. What was more important was that it looked different and had an interior that pushed all the Jag buttons.

      In practice the user experience turned out to be disappointing. The cars were not brilliant to drive, nor were they particularly reliable so the magic wore off and they both went back to the aforementioned usual suspects. In one case this was an E46 which, even at the end of its lifecycle, was a fabulous product.

      A few years back, out of interest, I looked into an XF as a possible replacement for my 5 Series. Nice car but in practice the leasing rates were closer to a 7 Series so I got the impression Jag were going for exclusivity rather than volume.

  5. As with Eoin, and I’d imagine quite a few here, I was a prime target for the X-Type in 2001, but didn’t have the least inclination to make the move from the default Audis and BMWs on the user-chooser list, or indeed the impressive new Mondeo – one that got away for me. Thirsty V6s and unnecessary 4WD are no attraction when you’re on a fixed mileage allowance.

    For me the X Type was always a bit ‘Mitsuoka’ – or more appositely and obscurely Copel Antiguo. The facelift seemed to recognise this, and along with arrival of the wagon, made the X400 more of ‘its own car’. Peak X type, at least as an everyday-use buying prospect in Europe, would have to be a well-specced 2.2 diesel automatic wagon.

    Incidentally although a diesel X Type was available within two years, it took another five to pair it with an automatic transmission, by which time the game was almost up.

    A Copel Antiguo, some time ago.

    1. Wow! Where else on the internet can you get this level of obscurity? 😍

  6. The X Type was the best-selling and fastest-selling Jaguar of all time, and it was judged an abject failure. You can’t win!

    Some numbers – hastily collated and open to challenge:

    X-Type 355,227

    XJ6 Series 1-3: 318,000
    XJ40 / XJ81: 208,733
    XJ X300 / X308: 218,298
    S -Type X20*: 291,388
    XF X250: 202,678

    The number which jumps out at me is the S -Type’s 291,388. Same production lifespan as the X Type, and considerably upmarket, but not far behind in production numbers.

    If Jaguar had been serious about using that 100,000 unit / year production capacity at Halewood they really had to think about moving downmarket into the 1.8 petrols with plastic hubcaps territory. It was there, and just a little above, where the Germans were making the bulk of their UK sales.

    1. BMW sold 2,7 million E36s and 3.3 millon E46s. Compared with these numbers the X-type can look like a failure.

      At the time of the E36 about fifty percent of all BMWs sold were 316 and 318 versions. Only with the E46 started a slow creep upmarket with the 320 becoming the best seller. Similar at Audi where the B5 with 1.8 five valve was the fastest selling with the B6 moving to diesels. An E36 318 was the typical consultant’s company car at Oracle or Accenture. If Jaguar wanted to make serious sales numbers they’d have had to compete there.
      With the XE they’d be able to take BMW or Audi head on but somwhow they’re not able to break into the fleet lease business where these cars go almost exclusively. When the XE came out Sixt (a large rental car company) had a fleet ov XEs for very attractive fees but these disappeared very quickly because they had reliability problems.

    2. “If Jaguar had been serious about using that 100,000 unit / year production capacity at Halewood they really had to think about moving downmarket into the 1.8 petrols with plastic hubcaps territory. It was there, and just a little above, where the Germans were making the bulk of their UK sales.” And this is also overlapping with the Mondeo. The 3-series and Mondeo sold in this price range with RWD and FWD. The Jaguar had to sell with AWD until the derided FWD version came along. I wonder if Jaguard decided not to poach the Mondeo´s sales. It seems like a sensible thing to do. Yet it means finding 100,000s of cars above the price of poverty spec, base-ish model 3s and mid-range Mondeos. The market wasn´t there.

    3. Richard – I may have to concede that the Germans’ grip on the UK premium compact market was simply unbreakable.

      The X-Type’s domestic rival’s figures were even more woeful – and Rover DID offer a 1.8 litre four and plastic hubcaps:

      Rover 75

      1999 53,581
      2000 31,544
      2001 33,883
      2002 32,123
      2003 30,499
      2004 24,155
      2005 5,439

      Total 211,175

      MG ZT

      2001 3510
      2002 6914
      2003 8011
      2004 6844
      2005 1870

      Total 27,149

      The overstressed and overstretched 1.8 K series in the entry level 75 didn’t look a smart choice, and the BMW N47R diesel option was sold at the same price as the 2.5 litre KV6. Like the X-Type, the 75’s list prices were pitched high, although transaction prices for the Rover probably told a different story, particularly when new proprietors MG Rover were shifting the many thousands of BMW-era ‘dowry’ cars.

    4. Ford Mondeo
      1997 322.716
      1998 310.809
      1999 227.167
      2000 178.130
      2001 286.794
      2002 250.316
      2003 199.370
      2004 183.357
      2005 165.303

      Opel Vectra (ouch!)
      1997 384.885
      1998 365.920
      1999 290.957
      2000 225.502
      2001 185.807
      2002 154.971
      2003 152.628
      2004 168.475
      2005 134.551
      2006 116.622

      BMW 3er
      1997 216.866
      1998 247.786
      1999 304.983
      2000 330.604
      2001 343.991
      2002 350.606
      2003 320.029
      2004 269.216
      2005 244.886

      Audi A4
      1997 231.860
      1998 209.314
      1999 201.661
      2000 170.567
      2001 228.064
      2002 274.531
      2003 260.931
      2004 244.174
      2005 260.090

      I’m sure who made more money per unit sold.

    5. Dave: the unsurprising thing is the decline of the sales tallies for the Vectra and Ford. What is surprising is the quite stable numbers of the sales for their peers from BMW and Audi. It looks like a) Ford and Opel customers went elsewhere and BMW and Audi carried on selling to their fans or b) Ford and Opel customers went over to BMW and Audi and compensated for the overall decline of the mid-sized saloon. It is probably a and b meaning the sector lost customers overall and those who remained were more likely to shop for Audi and BMW. The lost customers went off to CUVs and SUVs or to smaller cars. Let´s not forget that all of the entrants in the C-D class grew in the years 2000-2010 and I reckon this sent the customers elsewhere. I tried a 2010 Ford Mondeo and it was great but too big too feel like fun. I expect the same applies to all those cars. If I wanted a fun saloon I´d try the class down (B class saloon, 2 series saloon or A3 saloon).

  7. Nice article!
    Living in Switzerland and looking to buy an attractive 4WD estate, but with the major constraint of non-german manufacture (so no BMW 3/5 series, Audi A4-A6, Mercedes TE or VW Passat synchro) you were left with the japanese manufacturers, mostly Subaru. If you wanted something more attractive, and less common, the X-Type was a nice choice. Of course, Range-Rover would also have been possible, but quite a few Swiss did not want the image that came with it, and the subdued X-Type estate sold well here, in petrol 2.5 or 3 litre 4WD form. Space for the dogs, or 4 pairs of skis, ability to climb to your mountain chalet whatever the steepness of the access road, reliability thanks to Ford directed engineering, the users were happy, and today have difficulties in finding a similarly positionned successor.

    1. Isidore: your local Suzuki dealer has a Vitara for you, if that works. Or a Jimny if you want a smaller package. I expect CUVs now eat up the leopard´s share of the 4×4 market. How about a Stelvio?

    2. Richard, the Vitara, or the Jimny (quite nice!) are not an alternative to a X-type, or a german 4WD estate – you could have added the archetype, the Panda 4×4, the classical delivery vehicle for the swiss postoffice.
      And yes, the Alfa-Romeo Stelvio would be today’s alternative to an X-type – but in the meantime a Tesla Model S or 3, with 4WD, fits the bill too!
      A further option today would be to look at a Volvo….

    3. Isidore: you´re probably right. But if push comes to jostle, is it the 4wrd that matters or space? Or is it both? I suppose Volvo do an “all-road” car (I haven´t checked).

  8. I wonder if the car wasn’t at least five years late to the market? Hearing it was launched in 2001 I thought; Surely that must be wrong? In my mind, I remember it being a late nineties car, I think it would’ve been a strong contender to the B5 Audi A4, the W202 Mercedes C-Class, perhaps even to the almost forgotten Rover 600-series. I just can’t believe it was launched on this side of the millenium? What tricks the mind can play…

  9. Excellent analysis, and good identification of the key issues and the mistakes made. It wasn’t just in England these happened – a history of the Italian relationships under Fiat reveals many of the same trends and pathways. Some happened at the same time – and may be related to the emphasis on CAD/CAM, and the ability (or so they thought) to design in 3D via computer modeling (save money, up to minute work), which resulted in a less-than-pleasant experiential product. On the other hand, differences in the timelines may be due to management issues (including fiscal) that varied by country, or certain other model overlaps that impacted the base sales (such as Fiat or Ford in England) of the more specialized product lines of Jaguar, Alfa or Lancia.
    I have long wondered why the X350 received so little love – it seemed like a pretty cool product overall (from a distance) with a super-up-to-date chassis in alum, a new hefty motor, and lots of analog styling for those wanting a conservative appearance. It seems to tick a bunch of boxes, but somehow ends up off target. Probably because its older aspects didn’t connect with traditionalists, and its newer ones weren’t enough for the younger crowd.
    Its odd how sometimes the boxes can get ticked, but the results just don’t gel. That’s a takeaway from this excellent three-part series – how sensitivity to the design issues, and their relationship to both heritage, but also key issue of proportion, impact how embrasure of given chassis dimensions can either succeed or fail.

    1. Where does CAD come into this? Is it to do with not having the time to absorb the shape before committing? I think that Fiat boasted of doing away with clay and doing it all on screen. Look where that got them. It´s the kind of thinking an accountant or engineer would fall for, to imagine there was no important subjective difference between looking at a screen and looking at a clay model for a month. I don´t think Jaguar went totally digital. The X-type was almost certainly done as clay before transfer to surface development on CAD (which is often done in parallel with the clay), or ought to be. CAD allows the construction of super smooth and flowing surfaces but that says nothing about the proportions as seen in full-size from 20, 10 and 5 metres distance.

    2. Geoff, you beat me to it.

      “Jaguar has always been at heart a specialist, low-volume carmaker. Pursuing a growth strategy based on the idea of producing what amounted to Jaguar-flavoured cars was destined to failure.”

      some people spent most of the 2010s trying to do something similar in Bologna, to no success.

    3. We´re back to our three-car model range idea again. I´ve never read of this idea elsewhere. The standard pabulum is that every marque needs a dozen cars to fill out a hypothetical range. Maybe not. Maybe a 15-car portfolio is an outlier and a small-model range the most workable set-up. Jaguar didn´t need the X-type, it needed to sell more S and XJS and XK-8s.

    4. One of the more obvious reasons for the lack of x350 love, is that it was a pretty big visual downgrade to the car it replaced, and i have a sneaking suspicion the traditional Jag buyer valued esthetics pretty highly.


      It also arrived at the same time as the pretty revolutionary BMW E60, making it look even more dowdy to younger buyers.

    5. With it’s substantially higher deck- and shoulder-height, the X350 looks like an X300 that’s been inflated to reach S-Class/7-serie benchmarks, when the whole idea of the grace and pace Jaguar XJ6 to X308 was that it’s longer/lower/wider mantra made it essentially a four door coupe.

    6. A Series 3 XJ is more like a four-door sports car. It really is sui generis. If you wanted a car that was bigger inside there were other places to go. The magic of an XJ saloon is the blend of high lux and low-slung elegance. Were there enough takers for this?

    7. @Richard: I studied Production Engineering and got a Master’s degree in Production Systems, before moving on to do a PhD in Decision Support Systems. No engineer thinks a 3D render negates the need for a prototype. Even in Computer Science, no software engineer thinks a flowchart or any kind of pseudo-code can replace actual code, with pre-alpha, alpha, beta, and release candidate testing. Accountants, however, are a different ball game.

    8. Konstantinos: alas, it´s the accountants who often call the firing. The bit about Fiat was something I heard from a car designer. I don´t know how much they implemented this policy of for how long. I suspect it was trialled and abandoned. I do wonder how much non-designers really understand that design is not just about drawing and modelling but thinking and looking and processing (soak time).

    9. Richard: the biggest problem is not accountants, but Milton Friedman’s “shareholder value” cult. Given that shareholders (the cult’s main acolytes) are typically glorified gamblers who want lots and lots of profit and they want it yesterday, they’re not in it for the long haul. So, they place accountants (or glorified accountants) at the helm of corporations, because accountants tell them what they want to hear: “don’t listen to the engineers, don’t listen to the workers in the assembly lines, they’re trying to maintain their privileges; instead, cut costs here, cut corners there, you’ll make bajillions sooner than you can bat your eyelids!”

    10. Richard, Konstantinos, we’re on the same page regarding the hazardous effects of the financial market’s economic (and hence social) dominance.

      Richard, I believe the Fiat you’re referring to is the second model named Bravo, which used the Stilo’s underpinnings and was developed in record time (by Magna, if memory serves). I believe it was one of the first products overseen by Sergio Marchionne and know for a fact that its design was indeed done 100% digitally. Moreover, I found it interesting to learn that Fiat designers were so unaccustomed to this modus operandi that rather than using several bodies to compose its form, they altered a single one, which was later found to be among the reasons for the Bravo’s amorphous/soap-like appearance.

    11. Christopher: thanks for that information. If I understand correctly, what the modellers did was rough out the shape on screen with only one version which they revised as they went along? Hmmm. That doesn´t sound so good but it sounds very like how a clay model is done. What´s the difference? It´s in scale and lighting and in the way that no projection of a 3D shape onto a 2D screen will give a fully accurate impression of what the car will look at full size in three dimensions. Worse, the speed of development reduces the duration of the consideration of the work.

    12. With regard to the manifold evils of unconstrained and poorly regulated or unregulated capitalism, my current read is ‘Dark Towers’ by David Enrich, Financial Editor at the New York Times. It’s an investigation of how Deutsche Bank became embroiled in a series of scandals including market manipulation, money laundering and financial fraud on a truly epic scale. Deutsche was the only major bank that has maintained to the present day a relationship with serial defaulter Donald Trump. It’s a very sobering, even frightening story, but excellently researched and written, and well worth reading.

  10. The mention of CAD is not meant to be a definitive explanation for the poor decisions, but rather one of several aspects of how changes in design technology, and thus methodology, may have been influential. Its not so much that CAD itself is good or bad, but rather how it is incorporated.
    Early CAD was a culprit in all of this, as you mention, as it was oversold and underdelivered – it may well have satisfied the production folks, and “looked” like it was able to deliver a quality product, but the computation limitations in the 1970s/1980s limited their ability to model complex curves with the delicacy required to make a better product. (today, that has been solved, look at the plethora of shapes coming out).
    The show a few years back on Ferrari at the Design Museum featured an excellent video of the designers working in both CAD and clay at the same time, and explaining how revisions in the processes required changes not only in the work, but in the iterative process; and how having both tools also put demands on the need for top designers to be present at the same time. In short, the process is both accelerated and also more sensitive. You need both, and you need to know how to use both together, building of the strengths of each.
    It would make sense that Jaguars were done largely in clay, but also that Ford would have put pressure on such traditional and slower ways of working – possibly explaining why the cars in these middle year were “under-styled”. Does anyone have some staffing charts – it would be interesting to look at both the size of the design departments, but also the relationship of the top designer to the staff.

    1. That´s the kind of industrial design archaeology nobody ever does. It´s easier to dig a trench at the Acropolis than to find out how a car was designed in 2012.

    2. Sorry for stalking you. You seemed suspiciously knowledgeable. I am also in the melamine tower of academia. My current book (er, first book) is about form-giving in industrial design. Your area of research is interesting as you´re looking at building and I am looking at ID objects. The peer reviewers asked me to widen the remit beyond ID and automotive and in so doing I realised how little of most architecture my framework could handle. The only buildings that ID can “explain” (according to my framework) are the utterly unbuilding-like effrorts of Hadid and anyone who wilfully ignores the basic fact of buildings being a collection of oblong volumes. It´s a long discussion and I was not aware of so many dealing with it. Design research is a lot about processes and not much about form; as a spectator on architecture research I see not much to do with that aspect either.
      I am at Design School Kolding, Denmark.

    3. Geoff: What is known is that in 1991, Ford imposed massive staffing cuts at Jaguar’s Whitley facility, affecting the engineering department (which was decimated I believe) and was to have similarly eviscerated the design team; the intention being to retain about four or five members of staff at Whitley and subcontract the bulk of the work to Dearborn, where Jack Telnack was allegedly very keen to take up the baton. It was only the intervention of William Clay Ford that stopped this from taking place, but nevertheless not only was Geoff Lawson’s design team nevertheless downsized (it wasn’t large to begin with), he faced intense pressure from the US.

      Given the urgent necessity to get both X200 (S-Type) and X400 (X-Type) into production, to expedite Ford’s Rapid Growth Plan, it’s possible that shortcuts may have been taken during the styling process. Geoff Lawson appears to have been well regarded by his staff, and had the support of Bill Ford, but I suspect he had very little room for manoeuvre given the strictures he was working under.

      Isidore: Welcome to DTW and thanks for your comments. It’s quite easy to see how the X (especially as an estate) would have appealed in Switzerland, a country with a relationship to the leaping cat which goes right back to its beginnings as a marque.

    1. Absolutely agree, Charles. I wonder how a production version of the B99 on the Mondeo platform might have sold instead of the X-Type? Here it is:

    2. Yes, I’d lose the ‘leaper’ on the bonnet, but otherwise it’s beautiful. I appreciate there would have to be changes for production, but surely enough of its spirit could be retained.

      Mazda’s RX-8 was launched in 2003 with similar doors, and this concept is from 8 years later, so I’m sure they could have made it work. With hindsight, Ford ought to have pushed Mazda and Jaguar closer together; Mazda could have been their Honda, so to speak. Ford wouldn’t have let that happen, of course.

  11. Daniel

    Bertone’s Jaguar is perfectly aligned with what Jaguar ought to have manufactured, but not as a compact. It works better if it were stretched out to a full-size XJ sedan.

    Charles

    “With hindsight, Ford ought to have pushed Mazda and Jaguar closer together…”

    Agree on that.

    Mazda had a brilliant V-12 based on their brilliant K engine architecture (not their W-12, which was a B engine derivative) ready for the stillborn Amati. It could be had in capacities from 3.6 litres to a little over 5 litres. The 4 litre version was the sweetest of all. Perfect size. Mazda offered this very engine to Jaguar. Jaguar said, “No!” and built their version of a Mustang engine instead!

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