One of the first jobs that new Jaguar Land Rover boss Thierry Bolloré will have to get to grips with when he starts next month will be what to do with Jaguar.
Some contenders for the CEO role mooted ideas ranging from killing or selling the brand to focus solely on Land Rover, to closing the Castle Bromwich plant and moving production abroad. But Auto Express understands that Bolloré will have a bold new plan in front of him that centres around Jaguar becoming a fully electrified brand to compete with the likes of Tesla and Polestar. Central to that plan is a compact model designed to take on the Model 3.
Sales of the all-electric Jaguar I-Pace are going well, following its success as Auto Express Car of the Year in 2018 and World Car of the Year in 2019. Meanwhile, Jaguar has confirmed that the replacement for the flagship XJ saloon, which is set to arrive next year, will also be fully electrified.
Castle Bromwich will become the home of electrified Jaguars, with the large J-Pace electric SUV due to be built there, too, alongside a new, as-yet unnamed more road-biased Range Rover.
But it’s the prospect of smaller, all-electric Jaguars that is most exciting and relevant, with an all-electric replacement for the XE saloon a strong possibility, as previewed in our exclusive images. Sales of the XE collapsed by almost 28 per cent in the last financial year, which has prompted a radical overhaul to boost sales.
The plan for smaller, electrified Jaguars does have support at board level, with JLR’s director of engineering, Nick Rogers, telling us: “A small electric Jag would be great – we need to think about that.
“That’s a really cool space that ideally we want to be in, and ideally our customers want us to be in – and it’s extremely relevant at this time.”
Similarly, Jaguar’s design boss, Julian Thomson, is a fan of smaller cars, recently telling us, “I would love to do smaller Jaguars. I think, reflecting on what’s happening around the world, I would love to do cars which are smaller, more efficient and have all the inherent values of a Jaguar, which are a beautiful thing to look at, with a fantastic interior, and are just great to drive – I’d love to do smaller cars like that”
The success of the Tesla Model 3 across the world – outselling both the current Jaguar XE and XF combined – hasn’t gone unnoticed at senior levels within JLR, while bosses have also been keeping a watchful eye on Volvo’s all-electric offshoot Polestar and its new Polestar 2 model.
So an all-electric saloon – in effect a baby brother for the new XJ – is said by insiders to be very much on the cards. As with the XJ, the all-electric XE would likely make use of JLR’s new Modular Longitudinal Architecture (MLA) and – as with the Model 3 and Polestar 2 – sit slightly higher off the ground than a traditional three-box saloon to allow for extra space to accommodate the batteries in the floor.
We’re told that the all-electric powertrain would be true to Jaguar’s sporting luxury ethos, providing excellent performance and refinement. The new MLA platform would also provide the brand with a cost-effective way of electrifying the rest of the Jaguar line-up, with replacements for the E-Pace and F-Pace SUVs being a priority.
However, both of these crossover models are in line for substantial facelifts in the coming months, which will bring with them plug-in hybrid versions of the existing cars, to further edge Jaguar towards an electric future.
And it may not stop there. There have been rumours of an even smaller electrified Jaguar that could come about as a result of JLR’s ever-closer ties with BMW. The two firms have already agreed to work together on electric powertrains, and that is expected to extend to the supply of internal combustion engines. The agreement could then go even further towards platform sharing between the two firms, which would help slash development costs, and enable Jaguar to build a smaller all-electric hatchback or crossover, similar in size to BMW’s 1 Series or X2.
One of Bolloré’s trickier decisions, though, will be whether or not to replace the F-Type sports car. Many Jaguar executives, including Thomson, feel that it’s essential for Jaguar to have a sports car in its line-up.
However, the market for cars like the F-Type and rivals such as the Porsche 911 is shrinking, and there’s more money to be made from other electrified models. With Bolloré expected to focus more on market share and profitability for Jaguar, a sports car may well be something that he will struggle to justify. Just over 6,000 examples of the F-Type were sold in the last financial year, making it Jaguar’s second worst performing model after the XJ, which will get its dramatic overhaul next year.
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