History : Jaguar in the 1990s – Part Two

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 Two, he recalls the moment Ford took over and took stock of what it had bought for its £1.6 billion.

Reality check


The big question is why did Ford buy Jaguar? Senior Ford executive Bill Hayden, who will feature prominently in this story, said: ‘Everybody thought the luxury market was going to boom. At Ford in the USA, people will buy upmarket brands like Lincoln and Mercury. In Europe, Ford didn’t have such a brand. Customers won’t buy a luxury car with a Ford badge on it.’

‘So we looked at Saab for the same reason. We looked at Alfa Romeo. Ford wanted to have a top-end luxury wing. When Lexus came out and Mercedes started to push, they knew they had to do it.’

Ford Vice-President Bruce Blythe said: ‘I knew Ford probably didn’t have enough staying power to build a new brand from scratch. Toyota would never tell you, but I always thought it took five years and $5 billion to create Lexus from scratch. I figured, if you could spend half that much and get a global brand and a global dealer network, I’d rather do that than start from scratch.’

On 8 January 1990 two Ford-nominated Directors were appointed to the Jaguar Board. They were Lindsay Halstead and John Grant. John Grant was previously Executive Director of Corporate Strategy and Diversification at Ford headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.

The cracks show within days

No public mention was made of the role of Ford production expert Bill Hayden, who was also sent to Jaguar in January. Then, on 22 February, it was announced that Jaguar was recalling 38,315 models, nearly every car it had sold in the USA since the 1988 model year, because of potential brake problems. The recall also affected 56,000 cars sold in other countries.

The recalled cars had a high-pressure hose which could rupture and spew hot brake fluid on the engine, causing smoke, fire and loss of braking power. In the brake recall, all XJ6, Vanden Plas and Majestic cars sold in the United States would be checked for potential leaks. The recall represented the total number of those models sold in the United States in the 1988 and 1989 model years.
 Jaguar also said it was recalling 38,385 cars sold in the USA dating from the model year 1979 for defects that could cause the automatic cruise control device to jam.

The cruise control recall affected 1979 model XJ12 saloons and 1982 to 1990 model XJ-Ss. Then, in March, Ford disclosed in its annual report that it had paid five times the actual net asset value of Jaguar Cars in order to acquire the company. Ford had paid $2.5 billion or £1.6 billion. In the report, Ford said the $2 billion it paid over Jaguar’s net asset value would be spread over 40 years.

Sir John Egan saving Jaguar story pics Sir William Lyons John Egan - Philip Porter archive.

On 27 March 1990, after ten years as Chairman of Jaguar, Sir John Egan (above left, with William Lyons) said that he would retire at the end of June 1990.
 The Ford Motor Company appointed Bill Hayden, then Vice-President of Ford’s European manufacturing group, to succeed Sir John Egan. Bill Hayden became Chief Executive of the Jaguar Board, while Sir John Egan would be Non-Executive Chairman for the next three months.

Sir John Egan was quoted as saying: ‘My advice to Ford was that the big growth opportunities available to Jaguar under their ownership could only be fully exploited if the company were led by a senior Ford executive. I am, therefore, delighted to hand over Jaguar to Bill Hayden.’

Sir John Egan later said: ‘We had a choice in the 1980s: to keep making antiques or to create a design and development process that would allow world-class products and quality. Ford’s initial aggressive takeover was premature in that we were talking to other companies. When they contacted us, we realised the game was up. We wanted to be sure we got a good price for shareholders.’

Sir John Egan announces he’s leaving, the F-Type is canned


One of the first things Bill Hayden did was to axe the XJ41/42 F-Type (above) intended to replace the XJ-S. He wanted to know what was the justification for the F-Type, the sports car concept Jaguar Engineers had been working on since 1980. Hayden thought the car was going to be overweight and underpowered.

Bill Hayden commented in 1999: ‘The marketing guy said he never believed in it. The finance guy said we could never price it. We could never recover the costs. It was a rubbish car. I said, “Let’s kill the damn thing”.’

The new Ford men concluded it would have been overweight, underpowered and inadequate in fuel efficiency. It was also still four years away from production, and it had been started in 1980 – for the moment, the XJ-S replacement was put on hold.

Ford’s new Brit in charge of Jaguar


So who was the new man in charge?
 Bill Hayden (above, with Tom Walkinshaw in 1988) was born in West Ham, East London on 19 January 1929. Hayden was motivated by two things as a young man: money and cars. His father worked in ship repair and, outside the war years, could never be guaranteed work. Custom House, the area in which he was brought up, was badly blitzed during the Second World War and Hayden was evacuated to Romford and its technical college where he was educated.

However, his first job was anything but technical. He had an aptitude for figures and a headmaster ‘who had a pal who was a stockbroker. Hayden became a blue-button, a lowly messenger on the Stock Exchange floor, then a traditional City outlet for likely lads from the East End, and returned to Throgmorton Street after National Service, largely spent in Germany.

He did not stay long. Cars were his passion and, when aged 20, Hayden landed a job in the cost-accounting department of Briggs Motor Bodies, responsible for Ford bodies and other cars such as the Jowett Javelin, which Ford itself had acquired when the US owner of Briggs died in the early 1950s. Bill Hayden then joined Ford’s Finance Department. He went on to become the figures man behind the launch of the Cortina and justified the building of Halewood, Ford’s factory on Merseyside.

‘I’ve been to car plants all around the world. Apart from some Russian factories in Gorky, Jaguar’s was the worst I’d ever seen.’
– Bill Hayden

He moved to senior manufacturing management in 1966 and, by 1972, had joined the board of the Ford Motor Company Limited. Hayden stayed in the fast lane and in 1973 took on the responsibility of all Ford’s European manufacturing operations, a job he held until May 1989 when Ford sent him to Detroit to head R&D and Design. The day his wife arrived from England to buy a house was the day Ford bought Jaguar.

‘They told me I had better go back,’ he said. 
Told that he could pick his own team Hayden moved into Jaguar in January 1990 at which point Sir John Egan told Hayden he was planning to quit. Hayden said he knew he would get the job. Working with Egan was ‘suddenly different, it was rather peculiar.’

Bill Hayden later said in an interview with The Observer magazine: ‘We bought it for the image of Jaguar and the marque. The factories are not worth $2.4 billion. We have to update and protect the marque and keep it as an entirely separate entity from Ford. This is one way of protecting that $2.4 billion,’ which, he said, was a lesser figure than Ford would have spent to start a luxury car division from scratch.

With Sir John Egan moved sideways for the time being and his days at Jaguar numbered, the men from Ford began to speak candidly to the media about their new division, perhaps too candidly, for it was reported in the American media in all its negative glory. Bill Hayden admitted that he found some archaic practices at Jaguar.

‘There are two unions here that I thought went out 20 years ago. And there are more sheet-metal workers here than in the entire business of Ford Europe. There have been lots of little stoppages for such a small company, but with time and understanding we will sort it out. With Toyota and Nissan entering the luxury market we will have to learn to fight together and not each other. I am sure we will.’

He stressed the Japanese threat and said the leather and walnut skills of Jaguar would have to be adapted to meet longer production runs. Overall, he was no fan of the British worker or British management.
 ‘They do not have flair, ingenuity, or drive. I sum up the UK nature by telling people we invented all the games that are popular in the world.’

Bill Hayden also told CAR Magazine in a quote that was reported around the world: ‘I was appalled. I’ve been to car plants all around the world. Apart from some Russian factories in Gorky, Jaguar’s was the worst I’d ever seen.’ He also said: ‘It wasn’t that Jaguar’s quality was bad, it was horrendous… It was a terrible organisation making terrible cars… My concern was that, with the exception of a few people, most of the Jaguar people – their belief about Ford Motor Company was pretty poor… Second, they didn’t really seem to understand what a mess they were in. They seemed to think just being Jaguar, somehow they would survive. Somehow, I had to get their attention.’

Trouble at the top

Fellow Briton John Grant, now Deputy Chairman, said of Jaguar: ‘Surprising, in terms of its depth of engineering and technical talent. Appalling, in its management of production and quality issues. Incredibly naïve in terms of dealing with its potential in the developing global market for luxury cars.’

He added: ‘It was pretty clear looking from the outside that manufacturing was not Jaguar’s strength. But the extent of the under-investment was a little bit of a surprise. The work practices had actually gone backward,’ since the British Government had privatised Jaguar in 1984.

Terry Green, a former line worker at Browns Lane, remembered Bill Hayden’s Gorky comment. ‘I’ve got to be honest. The lads were sick on the shop floor. They couldn’t believe a person would say such a thing. It wasn’t very good for public relations.’

‘Appalling, in its management of production and quality issues. Incredibly naïve in terms of dealing with its potential in the developing global market for luxury cars.’
– John Grant

In retirement Bill Hayden would go into greater detail about what he found at Jaguar: ‘I was disgusted. I could not believe my eyes. The only thing I could believe was the JD Power Survey. It wasn’t that the quality was bad. It was horrendous.

‘In the engine plant, Radford, on the V12 line, they were making 300 V12s a day, and there were a couple of thousand reject blocks and heads on the floor just piled up. At the end of the camshaft line, they had an electronic gauge and it was not even plugged in. I said, “It’s not plugged in.” They said they had a portable hand tool plugged into the socket.

‘So they said, “Oh, we’ll plug it in.” To their horror, the lead didn’t reach. It was horrible, absolutely terrible. Warranty and policy claims were 13 per cent of revenue vs 2 per cent at Ford. We were actually having to buy cars back in the States. (In a test for water leaks) they’d… leave some spots unmarked. I said, “Why aren’t they marked up?” They said they couldn’t fix them. So they just didn’t even bother to report them.

That was the mentality at the time. The Jaguar people had a thing about airbags. They didn’t believe in them. I had terrible trouble saying to them, “You guys can fight as long as you want, but you sell a minuscule volume in the States. You’re talking about a massive market. Who do you think is going to listen to your doubts about airbag legislation?” Part of it was their products weren’t designed for airbags. They were going on the philosophy they didn’t have to design for it because they didn’t believe in it.’

Bruce Blythe said: ‘On a scale of one to ten, if we thought it was three or four, it turned out to be eight or nine on the scale of badness.’

Bad management – bad practices

Bill Hayden did not have a good view of the management either: ‘You went to the office at quarter to eight at Ford, sometimes earlier. At Jaguar, all the managers were rolling in at quarter past nine. I began calling meetings at eight to get their attention. Eventually I did, but it took a long time. Their attitude was, “We’re Directors. We come in late and leave early”. I said, “That’s not the way the Ford system works”.’

Production line worker Terry Green said of senior management, ‘Bosses used to walk around in suits. They didn’t even know your name. If we had a problem on a job … we’d get an Engineer in here a week later.’

In the past, Jaguar executives had steered public attention to the craftsmen who hand-worked the leather and the burled walnut that had made the Jaguar name synonymous with luxury. They did their best not to talk about things like a quota system that allowed workers to call it quits after producing a certain number of cars even if their shift had not ended.

This was a legacy of the deal that ended piecework at Jaguar in 1972 after a ten-week pay strike. Unlike Harold Musgrove over at Austin Rover, the John Egan-era management had not confronted its workforce, who also happened to be shareholders, over these issues.

A Jaguar Transition Team Report, written in early 1990 stated: ‘Reported stoppages of work accounted for only 0.3 per cent of hours lost in 1989, but this may have been because management was historically reluctant to press its view to the point of conflict.’

‘At Jaguar, all the managers were rolling in at 9.15. I began calling meetings at 8am to get their attention. Eventually I did, but it took a long time. Their attitude was, “We’re Directors. We come in late and leave early”. I said, “That’s not the way the Ford system works”.’
– Bill Hayden

Just how bad Jaguar’s plants were was apparent in the findings of a study of the motor industry by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Jaguar used about 110 hours of labour to weld, paint and assemble a car, while the German luxury car makers needed about 80 hours and the Japanese 20 hours. Jaguar’s product development was described as not in much better shape. Bill Hayden pronounced it as ‘out of control’.

All this was reported in the American media which, combined with the recall notice in February, did little for Jaguar’s image and sales. In June, Jaguar ended nightshifts at the Castle Bromwich paint shop, much to the chagrin of the work force who lost out on special premium payments. At the end of August 1990, Jaguar announced the retirement of Graham Whitehead, President of Jaguar Cars Inc. in the USA, and his replacement by Mike Dale. Mike Dale had been appointed as part of a rescue team for Jaguar.

New blood arrives at Jaguar


In September, Jaguar announced that the 2.9-litre AJ6 engine in the XJ40 saloon was to be replaced by a new 3.2-litre unit (above). Then on 29 September, Jaguar announced that Technical Director Jim Randle had been appointed to the new post of Director Vehicle and Concepts Engineering, and that Clive Ennos was joining Jaguar from Ford, in the role of Director Product Engineering Operations.

Jim Randle was effectively being moved sideways and replaced by Clive Ennos, the former Executive Director of Product Development at Ford of Britain. Although highly rated as an Engineer, Jim Randle was carrying the can for the XJ40’s woes and the delay in the XJ41/42 sports car. As well as the XJ41/42, the XJ81 V12 saloon was axed and a fresh start ordered.

Clive Ennos had started his career at Westland Helicopters before joining Ford in 1966 and worked his way up. He inherited a team of Engineers who had mostly been with Jaguar for less than five years, and which had an average age of only 33 years of age. They were eager to learn the new Ford-inspired design processes. Ford were also impressed by the Powertrain Department headed by Trevor Crisp, who Clive Ennos rated as the best engine man in Britain.

The new regime’s ten-year plan called for a new generation of models to replace the XJ40 and the XJ-S. The goal was to have both new models on the market by the mid-1990s, when the plan envisioned annual sales reaching 65,000 cars, up from the record 49,494 sold in 1988. Then in the late 1990s, Jaguar would add a line of smaller, sportier saloons designed to appeal to the kind of younger buyers who bought the BMW 5 Series, but looked down their noses at the Granada Scorpio, Ford’s top-of-the-line European car.

The hope was that this 5 Series competitor would enable Jaguar to increase its sales to more than 150,000 in a decade. Bill Hayden made it clear that this car would be a successor to the 1960s Mk2 and was, ‘the car we want to build.’ This car became the S-Type of 1998.

Jaguar would have to up its game – and its prices

Hayden also said Jaguar prices had been too low relative to competitors’ and would rise. An increase would help hasten Jaguar’s return to profitability, but slashing manufacturing and materials costs was much more important. Jaguar’s new management believed they could quickly cut materials costs by 8 per cent. They had started to take advantage of Ford’s buying muscle to obtain lower prices from suppliers, and they would also buy many small components Jaguar then made, like screws and shims. 
For its part, Ford showed no regrets about buying Jaguar.

‘We’re happy we made the purchase. It was a long-term vision. We don’t expect results overnight,’ said Lindsey Halstead. Jaguar’s fortunes in the USA seemed to be in decline after the hype of the Egan era. The latest JD Power quality poll of owners ranked Jaguar 28th of the 29 manufacturers surveyed. Only Korea’s Hyundai – which, at prices that started at $6300, costing some $33,000 less – did worse. Complaints about the reliability of Jaguars seemed to be part of owning one.

Most complaints were probably about the XJ40. In November 1990 56 per cent of the 9000-member Jaguar work force voted in favour of a two-year deal that raised pay 12.5 per cent the first year and either 7 per cent or the rate of inflation the next year, whichever was greater. The Jaguar deal had benefits for the company. In return for high pay levels, the company secured improved flexible working designed to do away with the remaining restrictive practices on the shopfloor. The company maintained that this alone produced savings of 4 per cent on the wages bill.

In the space of 12 months Ford’s highly-trained production experts had demolished the Jaguar myth. Although beautiful too look at, a Jaguar was a car built using outdated working practices and antiquated production machinery. The cars were underdeveloped by a relatively small design staff, who had no hope of competing with the greater resources of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.

Why had Jaguar’s quality slipped so much?

How had this situation come about? It appears no one had asked the pertinent question: how was it the manufacturer of some of the world’s best cars was a minnow in industry terms, even for a luxury car manufacturer?

Perhaps the answer lies in the past. Founder Sir William Lyons was parsimonious in his approach to Jaguar’s manufacturing capability. By using secondhand equipment and ‘make do and mend’ methods, he had been able to make a profit out of selling less than 25,000 cars a year during the 1960s – and this included manufacturing his own engines.

The Browns Lane assembly plant had an assembly line that was bought secondhand from the Standard Motor Company, and body finishing and painting equipment that was bought secondhand from Mulliner’s works in Birmingham. Another example was to be found in the poor quality of the tooling, designed and owned by Jaguar, used in the pressing of body panels, leading later Jaguar boss Geoffrey Robinson to remark that, ‘Bill Lyons wanted a first-class body shell off third-class tooling’.


The car that really established the Jaguar brand was the XK120 (above), the decision to go for an advanced twin-cam engine, when the rest of the industry was only just starting to discard side valve units in favour of the over head valve configuration, was to pay dividends in the decades to come. With the XK120 holding the title of the world’s fastest production car, international celebrities queued up to buy one and the brand was soon in the fast lane of premium car manufacturers.

The 1950s success at Le Mans had given Jaguar a sporting cachet that boosted sales further and gave it greater prominence than other British luxury car manufacturers, many of whom ceased trading in the post-World War II era. The uncompromising pursuit of refinement in a motor car, culminating in the XJ12 of 1972, was what set Jaguar apart from its many British contemporaries, and gained the company a global fan base. Maybe a Rolls-Royce was better built, but did it drive like a Jaguar?

Sir William Lyons, like Ettore Bugatti, not only ran the company, he styled the cars, and he styled them very well. Sir William Lyons preferred to expand Jaguar with internally-generated capital, not through borrowing and, unlike Bugatti, Jaguar managed to stay in business when all around them ceased trading. The 1950s had seen the death of French luxury brands such as Bugatti, Delage, Delahaye and Avions Voisins, while British brands such as Armstrong Siddeley and Alvis disappeared. Daimler survived as badge-engineered Jaguars while Aston Martin’s finances were constantly in a state of flux until taken over by Ford.

However, even so, until the arrival of the XJ6 in 1968, there was simply not the demand for Jaguar cars to push production above the 25,000 mark. Part of this may have been a reputation for poor quality in the important American market. The XK engine had a reputation for overheating in hot weather, and the American media were more open in their criticism of Jaguar quality than the more compliant British motoring press.

Indeed, one journalist in one of the British car weeklies made adverse comments about the MkX, which brought down upon the Editor the full wrath of Sir William Lyons, and the magazine effectively apologised to Jaguar. The Jaguar myth would claim that poor quality did not start until the Series 2 XJ came along in 1973, but American customers had experienced it long before then. Perhaps a sense of pride in Jaguar, multiple winners of Le Mans and manufacturer of the E-type and XJ saloon, the best car in the world, prevented Britons from looking at the company objectively.

While Jaguar’s small design team focused its attention on engine, chassis and suspension refinement, ill-fitting trim and fragile interior fittings were of secondary importance.

For around 25,000 loyal customers a year, this was more than enough, but the arrival of mass-produced Japanese cars in the 1970s upped the game in terms of quality control, panel fit and reliability, and now luxury car owners expected their new expensive barge to be better built than a cheap far eastern runabout. On the Jaguar production line well into the 1980s the various steel panels, produced by different outside companies, did not fit together properly, a problem that required a lot of hand finishing work before the cars were perfect. The practice of using hand-moulded lead to fill in gaps and undulations and achieve the required lines, known as lead loading, became the norm.

Ford would have to try and break the cycle of a reputation for poor quality depressing sales by investing some serious cash in the hope that it would boost demand for Jaguar cars and hope that they would get a return on its investment. While it is easy to criticise Sir William Lyons for his parsimony from the comfort of an armchair, he had single handedly created Jaguar Cars from nothing, and his careful husbanding of resources had enabled the company to be profitable and survive into the 1970s.

How to move Jaguar forward? A new engine family


It is perhaps unfair to compare Jaguar to BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Jaguar had focused on large luxury cars and sports cars, while their German rivals had been able to expand downwards into the 2.0-litre executive car segment where the volume was. The formation of British Leyland in 1968 killed any notion of this, as this was the province of Rover and Triumph.

Corporate decree therefore meant that Jaguar was limited to producing cars with engines of 3.4-litres or more and that restricted volume. However, Jaguar did not help themselves by effectively refusing to be a team player by sharing components with Rover and Triumph in order to reduce costs. This was not something that happened at BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Jaguar engineering had looked down on the products of Longbridge and Cowley, but Austin Rover had now learnt how to design cars from Honda, and Jaguar would now learn from Ford. The American giant would show Jaguar how to design parts to fit, rather than assembly line workers adapting them to fit.

Moreover, to compound matters, it now transpired that the heart of the XJ40, the AJ6 engine, was now regarded by Jaguar as inferior to the Lexus V8. To Jaguar Engineers, brought up with the tradition that mechanical refinement could only be arrived at through the use of six- and 12-cylinder engines, the refinement of the Lexus V8 came as a shock, because it was considerably smoother and more economical than the 4.0-litre AJ6.

So around 1990, only seven years after the AJ6 had made its public debut, Jaguar was actively looking at replacing it. The then Jaguar Powertrain Director, Trevor Crisp, takes up the story: ‘The decision on number of cylinders was far less obvious as we had to balance the frequently conflicting requirements of refinement, cost, economy and emissions. Our market research clearly indicated that refinement was a priority, and to achieve the programme objectives for this feature we believed that we needed a minimum of eight cylinders. A short stroke ‘six’ was considered but rejected due to the anticipated hydrocarbon emission problem and increased weight of the reciprocating components.

‘Ten cylinders were rejected on the grounds of inherent design imbalance, and 12 cylinders for cost and increased friction giving poorer fuel consumption. By concentrating on reducing the reciprocating weight and increasing the rigidity of the engine and transmission structure, we also considered that we could obtain refinement levels equal to, or better than, our existing V12 engine. A vee configuration, of course, gives a very compact package and greater freedom of design for the whole vehicle.’

With six, 10 and 12 cylinders ruled out the new Jaguar engine would be a V8, but as Jaguar had no money it would mean more expense for new owners Ford. This engine would become the AJ26 V8 which made its debut in the XK8 of 1996.

Jaguar had an ambivalent relationship with V8 engines. It had inherited two excellent Edward Turner-designed V8 engines when they had taken over Daimler in 1960. The 2.5-litre engine was used in a Daimler version of the Mk2, which embarrassed the equivalent 2.4-litre XK unit. It was suggested that the 4.5-litre version could be enlarged to a full-fat 5.0-litres for use in the MkX, but developing the V12 was preferred. The official explanation seemed to be that the Daimler V8s could not be adapted for mass production, but one suspects that it was more of a case of not invented here.

Next Jaguar tried to develop a 60-degree V8 engine out of the V12 in order to maximise its investment, and that failed for technical reasons. Always lurking in the shadows was the ex-GM Rover V8, which was rejected because it was not designed by Jaguar and was therefore automatically deemed to be inferior. When Jaguar eventually replaced the XK engine it was with the six cylinder AJ6, with Harry Mundy claiming most of the credit for its design. Many of the world’s major car makers had opted for the V8 layout, not just American ones, they were smoother than a six cylinder, regardless of what Browns Lane may have thought, and without the complexity of a V12.

In truth, there was nothing wrong with the Daimler and Rover V8s, but Jaguar convinced itself that it could do better. The whole mindset of refusing to share components with other manufacturers because they were deemed to be inferior because they were not designed by Jaguar would soon go out of the window.

Back to Part One

In the next part, Ford’s battle to modernise Jaguar begins in earnest…

Ian Nicholls
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  1. I’ve had a throttle lock open a few times on one of the Humber cars I had, it only did it in traffic jams on hard braking because the throttle arm would slide forward out of the mount and jam on the rubber grommet. I hate to imagine something like that happening on a 5.2 v12.
    I already knew from other sources that Jaguar quality at Browns was dire but I didn’t realise how bad it was. Airbag thing is scary but it’s better than the current Renault Twingo, on that they’ve put the airbag in the perfect place to break your neck in an accident! I’m 5’11 and sat in that car im looking through the steering wheel like a 5ft nothing in an X5, im amazed it hasn’t killed people yet.

  2. It is hard to know what to think about the views of people like Hayden. I am sure they were right to an extent about quality deficiencies, ( my 1977 XJ4.2 was lamentable ) but I could attach more weight to their viewpoint if it were not for the fact that Ford’s quality was always laughable, ( and they were open about it, the production director – name forgotten – telling a friend of mine that it was cheaper to give him 3 replacements for his 2.8 Capri gearbox than to design it properly in the first place ) and that these were the same managers who came very close indeed to running the whole Ford empire on the rocks a few years ago . One feels that their views were tainted by sour grapes – people wanted Jaguars, however bad , but the Ford large cars were completely ignored , and of course have now disappeared completely

  3. Ford quality was poor in the late eighties and early nineties, Which surveys always placed them near the bottom with only Renault, Fiat and Alfa Romeo doing worse. However, Ford was a mass produced brand with massive company cars sales, so poor quality could be excusable on a basic Escort going to a fleet on discount for three years, but Jaguar was supposed to be a luxury brand on par with Mercedes and Ford were right to point out the quality issues.
    For all Ford created the less than brilliant S Type, it should be said they saved Jaguar from yet another brush with bankruptcy and cars like the 1994 XJ, the F Type and even the often criticised X Type were good and much better made than the XJ40. Also having Jaguar and Volvo in their range meant Ford of Europe had two growing upmarket brands as their own large cars petered out with the Scorpio.

  4. Anyone who has even sat in the 1991 model Escort will take anything said by Ford execs at the time with a sack of salt. It has to be the most cynically devised exercise in accountant led rubbish that ever rolled off a production line. It was so bad that Ford were stung into developing the very good Focus mk1.

    I’m reminded of the comment (sadly I can’t remember the person who said it) that if the Americans did a film on WW2 in Britain, Churchill would have been a Nazi spy and a GI would have turned him back onto the right path.

    I don’t doubt that Jaguar quality was still deficient despite Egans efforts (although my 89 v12 xjs would tend to largely contradict that). However I think there’s a hefty does of not invented here syndrome in some of the comments of the time.

    • I’ve been in a 1992 1.3 Escort Harrier and this was the most abysmal car of its era I’ve ever been in. Four speed gearbox, absolutely no power, wouldn’t start when the engine was hot, dull styling, noisy and not very economical engine, need I say more. Ford seemed to really drop the ball for a time in the nineties, the Scorpio was ugly as sin and plagued with problems, the Mark 3 Fiesta offered little over its predecessor, and the last generation Sierra had serious engine problems.

      • Had a 92 (pre-facelift) Orion (Escort with a boot) for a while, it used the ‘new generation’ Zeta (renamed Zetec due to Lancia) engines, but overall was a rusting poorly put together faulty lemon. It was soon clear that the engine had not been serviced properly with the required 5w30, as it was all sludged up, valves were sticking and it struggled to maintain idle until warmed up. Put me off Ford, though the new Mustang and Mondeo look good.

    • The Orion needed more than a sack of salt, more like something the size of the Emma Maersk – although ours never rusted, maybe partly because Ford forgot the metal. I swear that 50% of total steering angle was from the chassis warping..
      It’s a horrible thought but I’m sure there is someone somewhere contemplating a Fiesta ST > Orion engine swap. Could do a film.. Orion ST – The Darwin Award is not Enough.
      But a 1.0 ecoboom Allegro..

      • The arches on mine were more filler than metal, frillier than a burlesque dancer’s wardrobe.

        Even mk1 Focuses can be seen with a bit of rust, it killed many Pumas and mk1 Kas too early.

        Only seemed to be the early 2000s before Ford upped their game.

        Mercedes were the other marque of that era with surprisingly rusty cars.

        And I had a 2002 406 that was rusting along the doors.

        • The Jaguar XJ40 has a reputation for rusting in odd ways, especially starting deep inside the monocoque, so by the time it visible from the outside a lot of steel has become powdery rust.

  5. Bill Hayden being at Briggs made me wonder if he had anything to do with Briggs effectively putting Jowett out of business but it appears that BMC bought the Doncaster body factory from Ford via Fisher & Ludlow (latterly PSF) – might be interesting to find out if BMC deliberately decided to put the kybosh on an innovative competitor?

  6. The article sums up British engineering of the 70 and 80s. Just a shame we couldn’t bolt it together properly.

  7. I was living in Coventry at the time of the Ford takeover and there were concerns about Ford cutting jobs, understandable as 10 years earlier British Leyland had announced massive job losses and the car industry in the city was still reeling from this and cutbacks in the supply chain. Yet could Jaguar have carried on in the way they were, with two antiquated factories and a product that wasn’t reliable enough, Ford had to do something and to their credit, Jaguar is doing extremely well now, although most of their car production is based outside of Coventry.

  8. I think Fords quality depended on where your car was made. If it was Valencia, Genk or Cologne the quality was far superior than Dagenham or Halewood. My dad was asked to go on a staff exchange programme from Dagenham to Cologne in the late 80s and was amazed at how much better they were with quality. If an issue arose with quality, anyone on the line could stop the line and the engineers would fix it before staring the line up again. At Dagenham the line workers were not allowed to do this, and quality issues were either shipped into a repair bay or just ignored making it no different from the practices at Jag. A perfect example was when the Fiesta Mk3 was in launch mode at Dagenham, the doors had the hinge hole in the wrong place so the doors basically didn’t close, so they were shipping the cars into the West End repair area before they shipped over to the PTA (Paint & Trim Assembly). Because every car was having this problem it eventually stopped the line as two blokes couldn’t keep up with the flow (40 cars an hour)and it backed up to the main line! And all it took was to remove the batch of doors from the process and put a new supply in (the same ones the repair bay were putting on!)

    • This “Stop the line” idea was innovated by Toyota, who called it Kanban / Kaizen. Any employee was empowered to stop the line on a defect, it was remedied, any causes addressed such that it would lead to continual improvement.

      • Stop line is only part of the Kanban process – it is a whole manufacturing process from just in time ordering to quality control. Many firms try to adhere to it but fail miserably – CNH are a good example where they are always missing parts so have tractors stacked up outside awaiting parts!

        • Absolutely, the process is used by many software development teams with a kanban board tracking all work, just in time completion of dependencies etc. with ‘stop the line’ merely a board mechanic used for blockers / defects.

  9. People here seem to be confusing engineering sophistication with production quality. Clearly Fords of that era were relatively crude machines. However, you have to be able to make them repeatably with minimal rework and that is what Ford were able to teach Jaguar. Anyone can produce a car that will look good in the showroom if you spend hours rectifying imperfections. However, you’re just pouring money down the drain with rejected work on the factory floor.

  10. @ Richard, Ford and Jaguar were selling to different markets. The bulk of Fords were sold as company cars, where the driver was covered for the cost of any repairs by his company, and most were conveniently sold just before MOT time. Also private buyers could put up with the cars problems because Fords were cheap and easy to fix( although buyers quickly lost patience with the 1990 Escort).
    Jaguar OTOH was a luxury product in a market where buyers expected their cars to behave faultlessly, exports to the demanding American market were crucial, and the competition like Mercedes were seen as almost flawless and expected to run without problems for at least 10 years. While the buyer of a Ford might forgive the electrical system playing up, this was inexcusable in a luxury car and Ford were right to clamp down on quality issues, complacent managers and scrap outdated production methods.

  11. While Ford UK quality might have been rubbish during the 80s and 90s, things did change, especially at Halewood. By the time the last Escorts were being made there around 2000, the quality and productivity there had been transformed, so that Jaguar inherited a very decent facility

    • Indeed the last Escort vans were cherished by their owners, as discussed elsewhere on ARonline the line was used to “ramp up” on quality before the X-Type.

  12. The staggering fact in my mind is the quoted labour time to “weld paint assemble” a car, – Jaguar 110 hours, Mercedes 80hours, Japan 20 hours!
    Toyota spent 10 years to develop the Lexus and had mastered laser welding techniques of body panels, the launch of the Lexus in USA decimated sales of BMW 7 series, and Mercedes S class overnight, a premium market which the Germans thought they owned. The Russian tractor factory that was Jaguar did not stand a chance agianst such an onslaught from Toyota

  13. The trouble was that the Lexus LS was a car that outside the USA no-one wanted. It was in reality yet more Japanese porridge of the sort that we thought we’d lost with the demise of e.g. the Crown. I suppose Toyota have salvaged some of their investment with things like the RX300 but I wouldn’t bank on it. It is also interesting to reflect on the fact that those people I know who were misguided enough to buy one found them to be not particularly reliable and more to the point extortionately expensive to repair e.g. £ 2,000 to replace a defective starter motor ( this about 6 years ago )

    • The target of the Lexus American tastes and needs, Lexus is an acronym : meaning “Luxury Car for USA” therefore not an issue if the car did not sell outside USA.
      As for “porridge” there is a video on Youtube with Alex Moulton praising the LS400 as he drives one over his favorite Cotswolds road test circuit

      I can recall a newspaper advert by Mercedes for the S-Class with the tagline “with 800 engineering changes the S-class will be as reliable as the Lexus”

  14. My mechanic has just bought a small Lexus, a 2006 something-or-other and tells me it is the first car he has ever bought where everything works !

  15. The Jaguar myth is always one I like to read about. Everything was hunky dory at the company, the cars were completely reliable and very popular, and nasty British Leyland wrecked everything and the cars became rubbish. Actually sixties Jaguars were notorious for overheating and high oil consumption, sales of their smaller models were falling way behind more reliable and modern cars from Rover, and the company’s factories were like museums. British Leyland might have been no angels, in that they merged Jaguar into an uneasy partnership with Rover and Triumph, and the company did go through a dark era with the Series 2 XJ, but the old William Lyons company was notorious for its arrogance, meanness and refusal to accept any criticism of its products.
    However, had Jaguar not joined BMC in 1966, which became British Leyland two years later, then the company might not have had sufficient funds to replace its declining saloon car range and could have fizzled out. The 1968 XJ6 that was created in this era was a far more modern car than its predecessors and set new standards in refinement, performance and ride quality, and became a huge success. For all standards did slip big time with the Series 2 XJ, and the company had a number of disputes, British Leyland did still believe in the Jaguar brand and when it looked like it would be closed in 1980, Michael Edwardes gave Jaguar its own management and a massive drive to improve quality and more efficient engines saw sales of the Series 3 take off and the company returned to private ownership in 1984.

    • In William Lyons autobiography it is mention that Jaguar would have voluntarily joined Leyland Motors instead of BMC, had Henry Spurrier not retired in 1963 before later passing away given that Lyons was said to have respected Spurrier.

      Where that would have left Rover had Jaguar joined Leyland instead of BMC is another matter, since Rover later became a part of Leyland around 2-3 years after.

      • It would have left Jaguar utterly stuffed. It would have had nil access to body engineering or manufacture and paint.

    • Yes, the general impression of Jaguar to observers was that as they were expensive big luxurious cars, they were “infallible”. Not so. But the first Jag XJ6 was a leap forward for the marque (much as the more recent XF has been).

      After soldiering on and improving/modernising in recent years, Jaguar’s current success is on a greater scale than could have been imagined years ago.

      • William Lyons more or less behaved like a dictator when criticism of any of his products appeared in the press, it was generally not the done thing and anyone who dared criticise Jaguar was considered persona non grata. However, falling sales of the S Type, the failure of the Mark X, and a reputation for overheating engines proved that the marque was heading for a very big fall and joining BMC was a sign Lyons needed a much bigger partner to fund his next range of cars. Not that anyone would dare say to him the company was heading downhill, of course.
        Yet the XJ6 was a massive leap forward and a huge confidence booster for the newly formed British Leyland, as they now had a world beating luxury car that combined Rolls Royce like refinement with performance and handling of a sports car. Also it looked fantastic and waiting lists soon built up as word was out the new Jaguar was so good. Perhaps this Jaguar being infallible, until a few years later strikes and quality issues dimmed its reputation, was probably correct.

  16. Both BMC and Leyland probably wanted a luxury brand by the mid sixties as they had seen the massive success of the Rover P6, and Jaguar was still a respected brand, particularly the E Type. BMC before they acquired Jaguar only had cumbersome top model Farina saloons as their luxury offerings, which were no match for the offerings of Jaguar and Rover, and Leyland, while they had the successful Triumph 2000 after 1963, lacked anything bigger.
    I reckon BMC wanted Jaguar more than Rover, as their exports were bigger than Rover, and Leyland saw Rover as a stablemate to Triumph, although it would have been interesting had the merger not happened in 1968, what the replacement for the Triumph 2000 and P6 would have been, as both cars overlapped. I still think Triumph would have produced P6 sized cars of 2-2.5 litre size and Rover would have concentrated on a replacement for the P5B, aimed at the six cylinder Jaguars.

    • In Rover’s favor, BMC would not only be gaining a suitable engine for export markets in the Rover V8 but also Land Rover as well as the upcoming Range Rover, Rover P9 and Rover P8 models (plus multi-cam / multi-valve / fuel-injected versions of the V8). Rover (particularly Land Rover) in turn could also benefit from BMC’s production scale and compotentry, allowing for the Austin Ant project to potentially be re-purposed as a Land Rover.

      In Jaguar’s favor, Leyland would be gaining a marque that (unlike Rover) does not directly clash with Triumph and actually compliments the latter. Additionally Leyland could have probably given Daimler a more suitable role at the very top of the Leyland range (along with further developing the Daimler V8), while Coventry Climax (via Jaguar) could potentially help develop a generation of engines to power all future Triumph and Jaguar / Daimler models.

  17. I do remember Bill Hayden’s comments about Jaguar’s facilities being as bad as Gorky being all over the Coventry Evening Telegraph in 1990 and it was quite a shock to those of us who thought Jaguar had moved on massively in the eighties, or for people in Coventry who liked to think Jaguar was infallible( understandable in a way, as the company was the city’s best known manufacturer). Yet Hayden had to be brutally honest, Jaguar’s quality had gone backwards, sales were falling, Browns Lane was antiquated, and the company was riddled with petty disputes and rivalries. It was regrettable Jaguar had to shed 4000 jobs at the time, as Coventry was entering another serious recession in ten years, but Hayden’s surgery had to be done to save Jaguar.

    • It is a co-incidence that Bill Hayden shares a name with a character from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy?!

  18. I think the real success in the privatised era was the XJS, which had started life as a very thirsty, badly made grand tourer that few people wanted. Impovements to the V12’s fuel consumption, a cabriolet model and a 3.6 litre entry model, not to mention softening the sledgehammer styling, saw sales rise steadily in the eighties. Americans, who were returning to large engined cars as the energy crisis faded away and the economy boomed after 1982, were very keen to buy the XJS, and also big improvements in quality and reliability helped in America.
    I reckon post 1981, when quality improved and the XJS HE was introduced, the XJS was Jaguar’s finest product. There were no other cars at the time that had a top speed of 155 mph that had the same sort of refinement and ride quality of the XJS, though the Mercedes 500 SEC came close, and buyers who wanted Ferrari like performance but without the engine noise and impracticality turned to the XJS.

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