There’s going to be a Jaguar launch at the upcoming New York motor show. Now I’m not a betting man, but I’d be fairly confident in putting a bit of a punt on JLR’s new arrival being the production version of the C-X16 prototype (above). Given the excellent response this car has received from the press and potential customers so far, you can also be quite sure in the fact that it’s going to sell well when it hits the market early next year. The final piece of the Jaguar jigsaw is in place. Or it will be once the small X-Type replacement goes on sale within the next 18 months.
So, all’s good for the UK’s shining automotive star?
Of course – but there’s definitely more to come on the powertrain – as well as product – front. Within a couple of years, the company will be making its engines at a brand new factory in the West Midlands. And this is bigger news than many people currently think. Because Ford’s contract (read obligation) to supply JLR with engines is due for renewal in 2014, and the word on the street is that Uncle Henry isn’t interested in extending the agreement. This is why JLR is looking currently for 1000 engineers – it’s working hell for leather on backing out of the Ford arrangement.
But this is good news, yes? Absolutely. Although no one would ever accuse JLR’s current range of lacking ‘Britishness’, it’s clear that any carmaker without its own engines lacks the strength in depth of engineering of one that does. Think back to the early 1980s when Harold Musgrove and Ray Horrocks fought so passionately to ensure BL received government funding for the K-Series programme, even in the face of the financially-appealing option of just buying in Honda power units. Horrocks knew that BL’s engineering base would be seriously undermined without the ability to make its own engines. Despite everything that transpired, this was still the correct decision to make, given the funding direction in 1983/’84.
Jaguar Land Rover finds itself in a curiously similar situation, even if it’s from a much stronger starting point. And thankfully, the company’s management doesn’t find itself needing to go cap in hand to the government in order to secure funding. It’s now down to Ratan Tata himself, and he’s clearly already proved himself a true enthusiast as well as an astute businessman. So, there will be a new range of Jaguar engines built and designed in the UK. Thus making JLR the most British of them all – and a company we can be even more proud of.
But what of the new engines? Will they we a clean-sheet design, designed from scratch? The signs are good – especially if you’re one of the 1000 engineers the company’s looking to employ to design, engineer and test them.