During an enlightening round table with Volkswagen brand CEO Juergen Stackmann at the Geneva Motor Show, he made an interesting observation: the turnaround of Jaguar Land Rover over recent years has been remarkable, with the firm becoming a genuine premium market player with world-class products in just a single model cycle – an outstanding performance.
“You must be very proud, no?”
It struck me: are we? Do we really appreciate just what the home brand has achieved following the unshackling from Ford into a standalone group, which happened just as the 2008 recession struck?
Maybe with Land Rover, the profitable side of the group, we do – although few could have expected the smash-hit Range Rover Evoque, the margin-rich continuation of the Range Rover Sport and the sheer brilliance of the latest Range Rover. But then, Land Rover’s always done well: in a world now besotted by SUVs, it would almost be a surprise if it wasn’t thriving.
Jaguar, though – there’s the real story. Back in 2008, it was making the elderly XJ, the low volume XK and had just launched the breakout XF – a car that, for all its wonderful style and beautiful interior (arguably more beautiful than today’s cabins), was still derived from Ford-sourced S-Type underpinnings.
The XF was Jaguar’s only volume car and even this was hardly high volume. Lacking a serious sales alternative to the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, it really was a minnow in the premium sector. The Germans simply didn’t consider it a serious rival.
Now look at it: there’s a brand-new XE made from an all-Jaguar, aluminium-intensive platform, winning plaudits and leaping straight into the position of driver’s car alternative to the 3 Series. There’s an all-new XF, again heavily using aluminium, that on paper makes as much rational, tax-friendly sense to business users as the smaller XE does.
The svelte XJ has been tweaked and the F-Type continues to get ever-faster and more lairy, neither car not really registering on saes charts but providing useful image-boost assets for the firm.
And soon, there’ll be the F-Pace. Jaguar’s first SUV. A great-looking machine that’s chasing the Porsche Macan and, by all accounts, is just as good to drive. Unlike the so-so XE and XF interiors, its cabin is also bang on the money, while both pricing and CO2 are double-take competitive.
The F-Pace, along with the XE, are going to transform Jaguar. Its sales are, relative to previous years, going to skyrocket and it may finally be able to stand on its own two feet rather than being propped up by the financial might of Land Rover.
And if Jaguar’s able to do this in a generation, what else could it do once the momentum really starts to flow?
Stackmann is right to ask us if we’re proud of Jaguar Land Rover. Perhaps we should ask ourselves that. Put the usual British cynicism to one side for a moment: even in the boardrooms of giant German car brands, JLR’s achievements are being recognised. Maybe it’s time we started shouting about them too.