Jaguar-moving-up.jpg” width=120 align=right vspace=10>Jaguar has flourished in recent years as new models have sent volume upwards. More new product is on the way with the F-type sports car and replacements for the XJ and XK ranges. There is also a growing self-confidence about the company now, typified by the R Coupe concept showing at the IAA Frankfurt Motor Show this week. Dave Leggett caught up with Jaguar’s Managing Director, Jonathan Browning, in Frankfurt.

DL: The S-type and X-type models have certainly taken Jaguar into higher volume territory – a major strategic departure for the company. How are sales of the S-type and X-type going?

JB: The S-type has sold 120,000 units since launch and we are very happy with that. Sales continue to be very encouraging and we’re seeing an exceptional performance in Italy and the US right now. In Europe generally however, sales have been constrained by the trend towards diesel in the mid-premium area. As far as the X-type is concerned, it’s still very early days. We’re only just finishing the rollout in key global markets. Right now we’re launching in Japan and the reception to the car has been very positive there.

DL: How big is the Japanese appetite for Jaguars?

JB: We’ve been doing good business there for years with the XJ and more recently the XK. It’s been around 3K per annum in total. We don’t have any specific targets associated with Japan, but I think we should be able to double sales overall with the addition of the X-type.

DL: And how’s global Jaguar volume looking?

JB: This year we’re on track to achieve 100,000 sales. That’s pretty phenomenal when you consider that the company only went through the 50,000 unit barrier as recently as 1998.

DL: Prior to the big increase to volume that came with the models already mentioned, concerns were expressed about brand dilution. Do you think those fears have now been largely allayed?

JB: I can understand the concerns of the Jaguar enthusiasts and lovers of the heritage and I respect that. I think though that the purists have been encouraged by the X-type. It is also important to remember that our volume is still considerably lower than that of BMW and Mercedes-Benz. We have some room to grow further.

Here is a selection of pictures of the new Jaguar R Coupe

DL: And where should the natural ceiling be?

JB: Somewhere in the region of 200,000 units in the medium term. With the addition of the F-type we will have five car lines – three saloon and two sports. I think that’s about right.

DL: So, definitely no plans to go into other market segments and no chance of resuscitation of the canned SUV?

JB: Let me say categorically, there will be no Jaguar SUV. That segment is for Land Rover and Volvo only and that’s the beauty of the PAG arrangement – achieving scale but with brand differentiation maintained.

DL: And you don’t look covetously at the Mercedes M-class or BMW X5?

JB: No.

DL: How is the X-type going down in the States?

JB: It’s early days – roll-out was late July/early August – but customer reaction has been very good.

DL: When does the X-type go to Australia and New Zealand?

JB: Rollout is planned for later this month and October. Journalists are driving now.

DL: How are the Jaguar customer demographics looking? After all, Jaguar is trying to attract younger consumers with its new models isn’t it?

JB: The S-type appeals to a similar age group to, say, its Mercedes-Benz competitor models. The average customer age is 50 years, significantly lower than the average age on the XJ saloon, which is 53/54 years. With the S-type we’ve brought a lot of new people, new franchises, into the business. The X-type is about reaching out further to younger consumers – people in their 30s and 40s. We’re getting through to that target group and a high proportion of X-type buyers are previous owners of Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi. We’re pleased with how it is looking.

DL: Will the R Coupe make it into production or provide heavy clues to the next XK?

JB: It is best not to think of the R Coupe in such terms. In the recent past, we have been concentrating on reconnecting buyers with Jaguar heritage in a fairly overt way. The big challenge now is to stretch forward and extend Jaguar values and put them in a modern context. We want future Jaguar models to do this and the R Coupe, as a concept, does this, but it should not be seen in itself as a precursor to anything in particular. The idea of stretching forward in design can also be seen on the evolution of F-type concepts. The first F-type concept shown in Detroit had some definite E-type lines. But since then, F-type sketches have lost those lines and become, in a sense, more radical – whilst still retaining Jaguar values.

DL: When is the F-type launch due?

JB: It is very late 2004 or early 2005.

DL: What about the XJ replacement?

JB: Within 24 months. One of the interesting aspects to the car is today’s announcement that the XJ range will be the first to incorporate our new aluminium intensive technology. It will be introduced in certain areas of the car to reduce weight and bring significant performance benefits. We have experience of using the material extensively, particularly in sports and racing models in the 1950s and 1960s.

DL: Could you envisage production, one day, of a Jaguar model taking place in another country – say the US, where BMW and Mercedes-Benz are successfully making premium vehicles with apparently no detrimental effect on core brand values?

JB: Yes I could envisage that, but it is simply not necessary for the foreseeable future. We’re comfortable with the three assembly sites in the UK and our capacity to meet future plans with them.

DL: The R Coupe is the first post-Geof Lawson show car. How do you see your design team now?

JB: The pairing of Ian Callum and Julian Thomson really is tremendous. There’s a real creative spark and they’re working together very effectively. Take a look at the R Coupe and you’ll see what I mean – the stance of the car, the proportions, lines, wheel to body ratio. It is superb.

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