Big Dog would have bitten a few legs around Paris last month but the taste of inflated egos has never sat easy on this pooch’s stomach – rather a flirt and a sniff than the never ending hype of hoped for success at shareholders’ expense. But Paris will wait, for today I’m barking at the world of Ford’s Jaguar operation.
Now don’t get me wrong, a bloke as stylish as young Fields is clearly perfect for the task of rejuvenating Ford Europe. After all, if you look like someone from Soprano’s central casting, fighting your way through the embedded “Family” in Cologne and Brentwood will be second nature. But let’s get clear here, I can think of no one less likely to be the saviour of Jaguar, and being Billy’s little mate won’t help him either.
Most amusing is the decision to close Browns Lane rather than Solihull. Look Mark, buy yourself a map of England – Solihull is the one by the M42, Browns is by Coventry. I only say this because it’s clear that you closed the wrong plant by accident, I can’t think of another reason.
While the guys at Solihull spent much of the winter throwing eggs at managers’ cars and putting steering wheels on back to front, the guys at Browns brought a top quality package to market. Sure the Jags aren’t selling well in Europe and the dollar’s causing grief in the US, but the answer doesn’t lie at the plant, but with the decisions of Grampa Nick and his hotshot accountant Chicken Birianny who somehow showed instant success when they had control in the 90’s but left a legacy of disaster for those to follow. Of course such failure has been rewarded with glittering careers, but what more could one expect of a company that puts family values above shareholder value!
Jaguar’s woes stem from a failure to understand the market that was developing, a market that the major competition of BMW and Mercedes seemed to have no problem interpreting. While we got the sublime 5-Series and 3-Series in saloon and wagon formats, competing hard with the C-Class and E-Class which were bullet proof if not achingly desirable, the drool that came from Grampa Nick was the lacklustre S-Type with a Buick interior and a rebodied Mondeo. And who can forget the great Jaguar sermon of “Jaguar and diesel are oxymoronic!”
So come 2001 what did we have? A lousy middle car, a big car as old as the empire and a small car with grossly inefficient petrol units competing in a European market dominated by diesel. Oh and let’s not forget, no estate car in sight. Poor Reitzle must have had a shock, either his team had been misreading their JATO queries for the last ten years or Jaguar had been grossly mismanaged. But there may be a ray of light – half a decade of development has finally paid off for the S. It’s not the best but it ain’t bad and in competition with the ugly bug 5 might have a bit of a future. The diesel engines that are a pre-requisite for Europe are finally appearing and they’re really rather good. There’s even a decent estate and the XJ is a decent punt, even if it is a copy of the previous with the elegance removed (which bright spark was it who loused up the European number plate positioning on the boot lid?).
Enter from left field our American friend, with all the aplomb of an American cavalry unit and the same ability to make the population happy. At the exact time that Jaguar might have been in a position to finally make some headway, he destroys the ethos of the company to satisfy the accountant’s pen. He’s right of course and Brown’s will make a great housing estate – the ideal address for the Jaguar buff who can now live on William Lyons Drive – but his lack of subtlety, his hopeless timing, his condescending ways, his amalgamation of the Jaguar and Land Rover marketing teams and the failure to display a car guy’s passion for a passionate product have shown Don Mark to be a worthy successor only to Grampa Nick. He’s an MBA in a cheap suit rather than a Wolfgang Reitzle, the sort of man with the special touch that could have made the big cat purr.
– Big Dog
The strong views expressed in this column are exclusively those of Big Dog and are not necessarily reflective of those of the publisher, editor or other members of the just-auto editorial team. just-auto gives Big Dog an occasional platform (and dog biscuits).