Ian Nicholls, AROnline’s historian, turns his attention to Jaguar – and looks at its fall and rise in the 1990s, an era when the German manufacturers were beginning to take over the world.
Here, in Part Four, he recalls the introduction of the X300-generation XJ6, and how it previewed the next generation of saloons to emerge from the company.
A New Jaguar
During September 1994, production of the X300 saloon began at Browns Lane and it was publicly announced on 28 September 1994. The Ford influence was already clear in the new X300, even though all assembly was done at Browns Lane. Body panels were stamped at Ford’s Halewood factory on Merseyside, and the two companies were increasingly co-operating on components.
‘We don’t want to start pulling bits out of Ford’s parts bin. But we are increasingly using its technology and suppliers,’ an Engineer said. Engineering and manufacturing operations now had a single Director, Jim Padilla, who the Jaguar Engineers said was the real ‘father’ of the new X300 XJ6.
Chairman Nick Scheele said of the new XJ: ‘We’ve got to return Jaguar to the black on the back of this car.’
The new X300 was, in terms of build quality, the best Jaguar yet. It also featured a revised six-cylinder engine, known as the AJ16, putting right many of the flaws in the original AJ6 unit. The AJ16 had made its debut in the Jaguar XJS in May. The AJ16 was an excellent engine, but it was only a stopgap until the AJ26 V8 arrived.
Retro becomes Jaguar’s hallmark
Daimler Double Six introduced an updated 6.0-litre V12 to the range
Visually, the X300 harked back to the Series 3 XJ and dispensed with the modernism of the Jaguar XJ40. Perhaps, in hindsight, this was the start of Ford/Jaguar’s obsession with the retro look, but the X300 was certainly a beautiful car and a triumph for Jaguar’s Head of Design, Geoff Lawson. Closer examination revealed the new car had tighter panel gaps – the days of lead loading on the production line were now gone.
The X300 was a phased re-invention of the XJ40, for it still retained the previous car’s underpinnings and the interior was broadly similar. As related in Part One, Jaguar could not afford to put the totally new XJ90 into production, so the XJ40 was adapted to receive XJ90 styling cues.
As well as the new AJ16 engine available in 3.2- and 4.0-litre versions, there was a 6.0-litre XJ12/Daimler Double Six and a sporty, supercharged 4.0-litre AJ16 version called the XJR. The new supercharged XJR exposed the venerable V12 as being past its sell-by date. The blown AJ16 was more powerful, more economical and less prone to emissions legislation than the two valves per cylinder V12.
There was also criticism that the 6.0-litre version of the V12 (above) was less refined than the earlier 5.3-litre version. Although Jaguar had intended to continue with the V12 engine – it was even suggested for the X100 sports car at one stage – the success of the XJR, which had been added to the range at the behest of Nick Scheele, gave Jaguar the idea that the V12 was now superfluous.
With the forthcoming AJ26 V8 engine intended to be more refined than the AJ16, and perhaps matching the 6.0-litre V12, a supercharged version would enable Jaguar to dispense with the V12 altogether.
Quality starts to improve
Traditional problems areas like Jaguar’s electronics now received special attention, including more sophisticated testing. As a result, Jaguar’s standing in the customer satisfaction survey conducted in the United States by JD Power & Associates, the consulting firm, had risen sharply during the previous few years. Jaguar now ranked 10th in the JD Power study, which measured consumers’ satisfaction with product quality and dealer service after one year of ownership, up from 25th a few years earlier.
With a score of 143 in the 1994 survey, compared with an industry average of 135, Jaguar still lagged well behind Lexus, which had a score of 176, but ahead of Mercedes-Benz, at 141, and BMW at 138. With the X300 launched, Jaguar could then, at long last, start work on the smaller X200, which Ford had first mooted when they took over Jaguar in 1990.
‘You could build a Jaguar in many places around the world… the world does not owe us a living.’
– Nick Scheele
In December Chairman Nick Scheele told the New York Times: ’We’ve come an awful long way. We’re not on track until we’re showing black numbers at the end of a full year. But clearly the path is looking easier now than it was two years ago.’
On the possibility that Ford might build Jaguars abroad Nick Scheele said: ‘You could build a Jaguar in many places around the world. All of us recognise reality. The world does not owe us a living and Ford does not owe us investment.’
On 1 February 1995 Jaguar was pleased to announce its first profit since 1990. Jaguar, which had run up losses of more than £800m since Ford’s purchase in 1989, made operating profits in the final quarter of £26m.
Jaguar said the improvement in the final quarter was due to continuing cost-cutting and better sales of its X300 XJ6/12 range, which accounted for 85 per cent of the company’s sales. Jaguar’s break-even point had been cut from 45,000 to 31,000 vehicles. ‘We had a very encouraging end to the year,’ a spokesman said.
First steps to the S-Type
Jaguar could now reveal that the Jaguar X200 project, a rival for the BMW 5 Series, would be based on a Ford platform and would use a Ford engine block. Though the styling, suspension, cabin and internal engine components would be bespoke Jaguar, many hidden parts, particularly electrical components, were certain to be pure Ford.
‘That will make for a cheaper and a more reliable car. I just don’t see the problem in using Ford components, as long as they’re of sufficient quality and are hidden from view. It’s the tangibles – the styling, the cabin, the ride and the performance – that must be pure Jaguar,’ said Chairman Nick Scheele.
David Hudson, Jaguar’s Plant Director said: ’We drove in systems and procedures that had been proven throughout the world by the Ford Motor Company. Since the acquisition, in terms of manufacturing, we’ve been through a revolution.’ The number of employee hours needed to produce one car had been slashed in half in the previous five years, to about 100.
During January 1995 the Jaguar Design Centre at Whitley began sketches for the X200 project that would become S-Type announced in October 1998. The man Jaguar chose as X200 Chief Programme Engineer was Nick Barter. Then, on 10 May 1995, five full-size X200 clay models were shown at the Whitley Design Centre.
- Model D a sports coupe theme with a fast roofline and XK-style nose.
- Model E a neo-classical and very evolutionary shrinking of the XJ theme.
- Model F a modern Mk2 proposal.
- Model H also a modern take on the Mk2, with a front similar to that of the Aston Martin Vignale.
- Model G was described as an orphan outsider whatever that meant.
Models D and E were soon eliminated and Model H became the front-runner. Eventually it was decided to combine Model H with Model F’s face and that became the basis for the 1998 S-Type.
It was in the styling of the new X200 that the Ford-owned Jaguar made its first serious mistake. Ford believed they had bought Jaguar as much for its heritage as well as its cars and wanted the Design Department at Whitley to hang on to this heritage with a recipe book of styling cues that were unmistakably Jaguar, which would then be included on subsequent designs – in other words, retro design was the way forward, with Jaguar’s becoming caricatures of the Lyons-era designs.
Jaguar’s British expansion
In July 1995, Jaguar confirmed that it was to invest £500m in a plan to create a production plant on the former Spitfire aircraft factory in Castle Bromwich, Birmingham. The site, along with the adjoining former tyre factory, Fort Dunlop, had been bought by the Government as part of an £80m aid package towards Jaguar’s costs. Ford, Jaguar’s parent, had threatened to build the new X200 at one of its American plants unless it received the aid.
News of the land purchase, made by the Government agency, English Partnerships, which would lease the site to Jaguar, cleared up confusion about where the new car would be built in the UK. The Spitfire buildings would be used to expand Jaguar’s existing car-body plant next to the derelict site, at Castle Bromwich.
On 31 July 1995 Jaguar announced it had appointed Bibiana Boerio (right), 41, as Finance Director to replace John Edwards, who was taking over the same position at Northern Electric. Ms Boerio was at the time Controller of Product Strategy at Ford. John Edwards had been one of Sir John Egan’s team and had joined Jaguar from Massey Ferguson. He is not to be confused with another John Edwards, who was a member of the Phoenix Four involved with MG Rover.
Then on 14 August Ford gave the final green light for the X200 project, the same day that Whitley began assembling the first of 28 X200 Workhorse Build cars.
Later in the month The Independent newspaper interviewed the new Jaguar Finance Director, Bibiana Boerio. ’Jaguar is starting to work. There’s a lot to do, but it’s really coming around,’ she explained.
It had often been said that Ford had overpaid for Jaguar, and regretted the takeover once the depth of the problems were revealed, but Bibiana Boerio was having none of it. ’I never heard anyone at Ford say the purchase was a mistake. We always knew that buying Jaguar was a long-term decision,’ she said.
‘My aim is to find the right balance. The objective is to improve shareholder value,’ she said. Bibiana Boerio did not apply for the job, it was offered to her, and – so far as anyone at Jaguar knew – no other internal or external candidates were considered. She admitted that she had little knowledge of the Jaguar operation before her appointment, and that not previously having had any direct experience of manufacturing and assembly was a handicap.
‘If you understand the processes of an organisation, the specifics will come. I will still go up a learning curve as far as the specifics are concerned. But I already know the processes,’ she said.
The old guard starts to move on
At the end of January 1996, David Boole, Jaguar Cars’ Director of Communications and Public Affairs died at the early age of 48. David Boole had been Director of Communications and Public Affairs since 1982. David Boole had started his public relations career in 1970 with the British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC), after graduating from the University of London.
His mentor was Keith Hopkins, British Leyland’s brilliant PR supremo and, in effect, Lord Stokes’s spin doctor. Some have argued that during the 1980s, David Boole did the same for John Egan’s public profile. He was replaced by Joe Greenwell.
Despite all the improvement in Jaguar quality and reliability, the company was still not selling enough cars. In February 1996 Jaguar had to shut its car production line for a week because of slumping demand. Jaguar laid off 2200 of its production staff of 3500 in its Birmingham and Coventry plants.
Jaguar XK8 launched
On 5 March 1996 the new XK8 sports car was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show. The X100 was the replacement for the venerable XJS and was the first Jaguar to use the new AJ26 V8 engine. The car clearly aped the styling of the Jaguar E-type, but it was an effective blend of retro and modern. During March 1996 the European Union agreed that the British Government could give Jaguar an £80m grant, which would allow it to start building its new X200 small saloon in the West Midlands in 1998.
On 4 April the last XJS came off the production line after a run of 21 years and 115,413 examples. Unlike the much vaunted E-Type, Jaguar had no trouble in selling the last examples. The XJ-S or XJS had done its job. However, in retrospect, perhaps the best XJS was never offered by Jaguar – had the XJS been offered with the supercharged 326 bhp AJ16 engine found in the XJR, complete with manual gearbox option, Jaguar would have had a sensational car.
The demise of the XJS severed the last link with the William Lyons-era Jaguar. Although the XK8 had been announced, production at Browns Lane did not begin until 4 June at Browns Lane and it did not go on sale until October. Then, in November, Jaguar announced two senior engineering appointments: Nick Barter would replace Clive Ennos as Director of Product Development, and David Szczupak would, in turn, succeed Nick Barter as Chief Programme Engineer on the X200 programme. David Szczupak was the man credited with leading the design of the new AJ26 V8 engine.
On 17 February 1997 the last Jaguar V12 engine was produced at Radford after 26 years and 161,996 units. In 2000 the old Daimler factory was flattened to make way for housing. Two months later the last XJ12 of all emerged from Browns Lane after a run of 25 years.
Planning for next generation begins
In the summer the Design Department at Whitley began preliminary sketches on what would become the X400 X-Type (above) and the X350 XJ saloon. On 19 August 1997, Nick Scheele, Jaguar’s Chairman, confirmed that initial feasibility studies for a third Jaguar model range had proved positive and a more in-depth study into the business case for the car, codenamed X400, would be completed in three months. Jaguar believed it could sell 100,000 of the cars, doubling its then current production plans, which would compete with the successful BMW 3 Series, the Audi A4 and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
It would also provide thousands more jobs, on top of the company’s 6300 strong workforce. While Nick Scheele put the chances of pressing ahead with the X400 at ‘no more than 50-50′, he said he hoped it could be built in Britain. ’I’d like to think we can find somewhere in the UK that’s economically possible. We’re looking at our two sites in the West Midlands by doing something innovative there, because we just don’t have the capacity there. We could then move on to look at alternatives, including a location elsewhere in the UK.’
‘No more than 50-50.’ – Nick Scheele on the prospects of launching the X-Type
The biggest barrier to producing the car at Jaguar’s existing plants was capacity at its Castle Bromwich paint facility, which was already being expanded for the arrival of the new X200 medium-sized saloon range. Jaguar hoped to assemble the new small car in its Browns Lane production plant, but said it might need a 100-acre greenfield site, adding substantially to the cost.
Nick Scheele continued: ‘There’s just no way we can find a site like that nearby.’ Coventry Council, which had already been in discussions with Jaguar about the project, said it believed it could come up with a location. Chris Beck, from the authority’s development directorate, said: ‘We would try to meet their needs by offering a range of sites in Coventry or the surrounding area.’ Nick Scheele insisted the UK’s chances of building the car did not depend on the level of Government aid. ‘It’s true to say most investments which create that number of jobs are liable to state aid.’
Only the day after Nick Scheele had talked publicly about a new small Jaguar saloon, a full scale clay model of an X400 was viewed at Whitley. Principal Designer Wayne Burgess had started the ball rolling in the summer of 1997 resulting in four design proposals, though the concept of a smaller XJ appears to have been set in stone. The clay model viewed on 20 August featured two different nose treatments, with one side having an E-type oval front design.
Just to emphasise how much in vogue retro styling was at the time, Rover unveiled their design for a new Mini at the Frankfurt Motor Show on 9 September. Two days later Jaguar revealed the new X308 XJ8 saloon.
The X308 launches – who needs a V12?
The new XJ8 had the AJ26 V8 engine in 3.2- and 4.0-litre versions and was the final upgrade of the XJ40 design. With 290bhp on tap for the 4.0 litre, it could top 150mph. All transmissions were five-speed automatics. At the same time the top of the range supercharged models arrived. The XJR now had 370bhp, whilst the Daimler Super V8 used the same engine with a more luxurious specification. Who needed a V12?
The X308 truly was a superb motorcar.
In November 1997 agreement was reached to keep the production of all Jaguar cars in Britain. The Ford plant at Halewood was chosen to manufacture the new X400 Jaguar as part of an understanding reached by union leaders.
The Merseyside complex had beaten off bids from rival Ford sites in Germany and the USA to make the new model, union officials were told. It was understood that the Boards of both Jaguar and Ford in Britain were behind the Halewood option and it was thought that the ultimate owners in America would rubber-stamp the decision.
As part of the agreement struck by unions, management issued guarantees about the future of existing Jaguar plants in Coventry and Castle Bromwich to meet the concerns of workers there. The Transport and General Workers’ Union was told that existing models would continue to be built in the Midlands towns and that the plants would also manufacture future Jaguar marques.
However, it was accepted that Halewood was the only plant owned by Ford in the UK with sufficient spare capacity to take the new model, which was intended to compete with the BMW 3 Series. Unions concluded a deal with Ford earlier in 1997 which included a promise that a ‘multi-purpose’ vehicle would be built at Halewood and it was understood that that the X400 would be manufactured on Merseyside instead.
Tony Woodley, chief negotiator for the motor industry at the TGWU, said that the prospect of the ‘quintessentially British’ car being built overseas may have been averted. ’We believe there is a genuine business logic that the new baby Jaguar should be built in the this country. We find it inexplicable and I’m sure the Jaguar-buying public would find it inexplicable if this vehicle was to be built outside the country,’ Tony Woodley said. He warned, however, that the final decision would depend on the support the Government could offer.
Tony Woodley added: ‘The quality and efficiency of the Halewood plant, coupled with its capacity, leads me to believe that Britain and Halewood should win the day on business logic. It would be in nobody’s interests for Jaguar to move outside the UK.’
An official statement from Ford said that a study team from Jaguar was still evaluating the potential production sites in Britain, Europe and America. While the evaluation included a review of Halewood, it was too early to speculate on the final outcome of the review. The statement conceded that management had been in discussions with unions over the implications if Halewood was the choice.
‘The company has reached a good measure of agreement, but naturally details are still a matter between the company and the unions.’
During 1997, Jaguar sold 43,775 cars.
Jaguar receives government money
On 6 January 1998 a £43m Government grant secured production of the smaller X400 Jaguar for the Ford Halewood plant on Merseyside. Production of the X400 was due to begin in 2001 and it was planned that production would rise to 100,000 cars a year, 60 per cent of which would be sold in Europe. The £400m investment would safeguard 3000 of the 4500 jobs on the Halewood site.
Halewood was one of three sites studied to build X400. The other two were Ford factories in Germany and America. Announcing the go-ahead for the X400 at the Detroit Motor Show, Nick Scheele, Jaguar’s Chairman, revealed that the investment would probably have gone to the German factory in Cologne – the cheapest option – without the subsidy from the Department of Trade and Industry.
Nick Scheele and certain Ford top executives, including the Chairman Alex Trotman and the President of its automotive operations Jac Nasser also favoured building the new Jaguar in England for traditional and emotional reasons. Nick Scheele once said of Jac Nasser: ‘He is passionately in love with Jaguar. He has an E-type and a Mk2.’
Only a year earlier the Halewood plant was under threat of complete closure following the decision not to build the Escort replacement on Merseyside. Confirmation that the plant had won the new Jaguar investment was greeted with jubilation. Tony Woodley, National Secretary of the TGWU and chief Ford negotiator, described the decision as great news for the British motor industry and Merseyside.
‘It means that one of the most famous brand names in British manufacturing will continue to be built in its home country in large measure because of the work trade unions have put in to resolving this issue.’ Eddie O’Hara, the Labour MP whose Knowsley South constituency included the 35-year-old body and assembly plant, said: ‘Workers and management at Halewood have made a tremendous effort to put the past behind them and make the plant cost effective and a plant, that in quality terms, could rival any other,’ he said.
Ian McCartney, the Trade and Industry Minister, said Jaguar’s decision ‘shows that the UK remains the most competitive location for automotive manufacture in Europe’.
Nick Scheele said: ‘Jaguar will turn itself from a small car company into a major player on the international stage. By the time X400 comes onstream we will be a four-model line company with total production of between 200-250,000 cars a year.’
Jac Nasser added: ‘When Ford bought Jaguar in 1989 most people thought we paid too much and that we didn’t look close enough at the soiled merchandise. Maybe we did pay too much at the time but I think history will view our purchase of Jaguar as a very wise move.’
Later in the month the first pre-production X200 S-Types left the Castle Bromwich production lines.
New model development presses on
Meanwhile, work had been ongoing with the X350-generation Jaguar XJ. The marketing men demanded a larger saloon than the existing X308 and the decision was taken to manufacture an all-aluminium bodyshell in order to reduce weight. Four initial design proposals were produced, themes K, T, W and Y. Themes K, W and Y all had a sloping front grille, which did move XJ styling on a little, if not much, but it was the evolutionary theme T which was selected for further evaluation. Theme T was viewed by senior Jaguar executives in February 1998 and this would form the basis of the final design.
It was perceived as being recognisably a Jaguar, qualities which were seen as vital. In March 1998 the supercharged XKR appeared, taking Jaguar sports car performance to a new level, way beyond what the E-type and XJ-S at their most potent offered.
At the Paris Motor Show on 3 October 1998 Jac Nasser of Ford proclaimed that the new S-Type would help to lift annual production at Jaguar to 200,000 cars. Jac Nasser, then head of Ford’s worldwide automotive operations, described this as ‘just the start’. Jac Nasser’s confidence was based on Jaguar’s performance. It was going from strength to strength, particularly in the US and Germany. Sales in 1998 were running 20% ahead of 1997, thanks to the successful launch of the new XK8 convertible and coupe.
Ford’s strategy was to build the Jaguar brand to compete with BMW and Mercedes in the highly profitable executive market. The marque seemed to be coming good at the right time for Ford. The production of the Scorpio had to be stopped due to lack of demand for an upmarket Ford – a severe embarrassment. Jaguar would be used to fill the gap.
Jaguar S-Type is launched
It was on 20 October 1998 that the X200 was announced to the world as the new Jaguar S-Type. BMW had decided to bring forward the announcement of the Rover 75 as a spoiler for the new Jaguar. It was a tactic that worked, as the Rover 75 launch dominated the headlines, if not for the right reasons as BMW Chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder decided to use the occasion to send alarm bells ringing about the future of the Rover Group and demand Government aid. After all, the Government had decided to give Halewood a £43m grant…
At the Jaguar S-Type launch Nick Scheele, Chairman and Chief Executive, said: ‘The new S-Type is a true Jaguar thoroughbred, ably representing the company’s core marque values of distinctive style, refined power, agile handling, supple ride and luxurious comfort. While S-Type’s instantly recognisable styling signature evokes the spirit of its acclaimed antecedents, the Mark 2 and original S-type saloons, advanced technologies set new standards in terms of durability, quality, reliability, customer convenience and driving pleasure.’
Commenting on the significance to Jaguar of the launch of S-Type, Nick Scheele, added: ‘The launch of S-Type signals the dawn of a new era in the history of Jaguar. The new S-Type represents the first stage of a dramatic product-led expansion of the company over the next four years, which will attract a new generation of customers to the Jaguar marque. This will fuel a four-fold rise in Jaguar sales from fifty thousand cars this year to over 200,000 cars by 2002, firmly establishing Jaguar as a leading player in the world’s premium car market.’
This figure was modest compared with BMW’s sale of 700,000 cars and Mercedes’ sales of 900,000 in 1998. The new Jaguar S-Type was an American car executive’s view of a traditional British car, while the Rover 75 was a German car executive’s view of a traditional British car.
The view at the time was that the Jaguar S-Type was the better car, but hindsight has tended to reverse that opinion. The S-Type was subject to extensive revisions from 2002, including the addition of a 2.7-litre diesel engine to the range, making it the car it should have been in the first place. Despite all the publicity, both the new British executive cars would not go on sale until the spring of 1999.
During December 1998 the X400/X-Type design was signed off for production. On 16 February 1999, Jaguar announced that David Szczupak would be leaving Jaguar to take up a post as Chief Powertrain Engineer at Ford.
Premier Auto Group is formed
On 19 March 1999 Ford announced that it had appointed Wolfgang Reitzle (right), the former BMW executive ousted the previous month in a boardroom battle over Rover, as Chairman of its new Premier Automotive Group (PAG), which embraced Aston Martin, Jaguar, Lincoln and Volvo. He started his new job three days later. He also became the new Chairman of Jaguar.
Wolfgang Reitzle told workers in Coventry that he wanted Jaguar to be the fastest-growing luxury car brand in the world. Outgoing Jaguar Chairman Nick Scheele took up a new appointment as Senior Vice-President Ford of Europe, Head of Marketing and Sales.
During 1998 Jaguar had sold a record 50,220 cars, all of them coming off the Browns Lane production line, just surpassing the previous record year of 1988 when 49,494 cars were sold. ‘People are at last starting to see Jaguar on the radar screen. We had to fix the basics first, and then put ourselves in a position to grow,’ Nick Scheele said. The outgoing Chairman had steered the comeback over the previous seven years.
On the subject of the X400 small Jaguar to be built at Halewood, Nick Scheele said: ‘We have recognised we have to do something fairly dramatic. We are going to get there, and we’re not going to produce a Jaguar until we get there.’
The record sales of 1998 were Nick Scheele’s legacy to Jaguar. The X308 XJ saloon and XK sports cars were superb and well-built machines. At this stage, Ford were not releasing Jaguar’s financial results, but it was assumed by the media that Jaguar were profitable. 1998 was, thus far, the high point of Ford’s ownership of Jaguar.
However, the rejoicing was shortlived as Ford’s master plan for Jaguar soon began to unravel.