Jaguar to lead Ford expansion
By DAVID BRIERLEY
JAGUAR is to lead Ford’s worldwide expansion. That is the ambitious plan of Jac Nasser, who becomes Ford president and chief executive in January. Speaking at the Paris Motor Show, Mr Nasser proclaimed that the new S-Type would help to lift annual production at Jaguar to 200,000 cars. Mr Nasser, current head of Ford’s worldwide automotive operations, described this as “just the start”. Mr Nasser’s plans for Jaguar represent a spectacular increase on the current production of 50,000 cars.
The S-Type, due to be unveiled this month at the Birmingham Motor Show, is a vital part of these plans. A compact sports saloon, the S-Type is named after a Jaguar model that was popular during the 1960s and is intended to evoke a golden heyday of British motoring. It is being built at Castle Bromwich, Birmingham, and will go on sale next spring.
The S-Type will be somewhat smaller than the existing XJ saloons and XK sports cars and take on the BMW 5 series, the Mercedes E-class and the top-of-the-range Audi cars. Prices for the S-Type will be competitive, starting at around pounds 25,000 and rising to pounds 35,000.
Mr Nasser’s confidence is based on Jaguar’s current performance. It is going from strength to strength, particularly in the US and Germany. Sales this year are running 20 per cent ahead of 1997, thanks to the successful launch of the new XK8 convertible and coupe.
Thanks to the S-Type, some 90,000 Jaguars should be produced next year, rising above 100,000 in 2000. Jaguar production will receive a further boost in 2001 when the “Baby Jag”, called the X400, rolls off the production lines in Halewood on Merseyside. This should raise Jaguar’s production to well over 200,000.
Ford’s strategy is to build the Jaguar brand to compete with Mercedes and BMW in the highly profitable executive market. The marque is 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 will be used to fill the gap. It will start to repay Ford’s massive investment in the company, since buying it for pounds 1.8bn in 1988.