Jaguar’s managing director and former Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited’s Engineering Director, Philip Koehn, has quite a task ahead of him. The company he’s leading faces quite a deadline – to become an EV-only brand from 2025. Trouble is, the man who set out this strategy won’t be in role as Big Ben chimes in 2023…
That’s quite a timescale, not least given the forthcoming all-electric XJ saloon and J-Pace SUV were canned in 2020 and the firm’s only other electric car – the I-Pace – has been on-sale since 2018, with no signs of being joined by any additional battery-powered models.
It was telling that, when Thierry Bolloré, Jaguar Land Rover’s departing CEO spelled out his Reimagine Strategy in 2020, there was little mention of the Magna Steyr-assembled I-Pace, which is clearly not part of the firm’s future. Instead, all existing Jaguars would be phased out to be replaced by an all-new range of EVs competing in the luxury sector.
Coming in from Groupe Renault, Bolloré would have been privy to cutting-edge battery and electric motor tech being developed by Nissan and Renault, and he concluded that the forthcoming I-Pace-based XJ just wasn’t going to cut it against the Tesla Model S, let alone what the German opposition had up its sleeve.
So, the 2022 Jaguar XJ EV (below) was killed, Rover P8-style, close to its start-of-production. Bolloré said at the time, ‘It was one of the toughest decisions I have ever made, especially since it was in my first month, but XJ was a completely different kind of car from the ones we were proposing – different in technology, battery chemistry, electronics, size, performance and market position. It would never have suited our plans.’
So, Bolloré spelled out a clean-sheet model plan and, under Reimagine, Jaguar would become a Bentley-rivalling all-electric brand.
Death spiral for outgoing Jags
That leaves the existing models – including the I-Pace – in an interesting place, because they won’t be replaced. The XE experiment is clearly over and the good-to-drive saloon is now on death row, while the likes of the XF, E-Pace and F-Pace that form the heartland of the range are also on a sad and avoidable death spiral.
These models will all receive regular updates between now and their end of production, so could represent good value for anyone wanting a piece of Jaguar history – but it still seems like a very odd business strategy to announce their end so far ahead of it actually happening.
So, where does this leave Koehn and his task of leading JLR’s problem child into the brave new world? He definitely has good form – having been learning the ropes at Jaguar since bailing out of the now-defunct, Chinese-backed attempt to revive the German Borgward brand back in 2019. Before that he was at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, and clearly understands the wants and needs of the luxury car market.
Some task ahead
However, Koehn’s inbox list is mighty, and not just underpinned by what appears to be an extremely tight timescale. He also needs to ensure that these cars are built in the UK, given JLR’s commitment to keep all of its UK facilities open past 2025. So, we’re looking at all-new cars, an all-new platform known as Panthera, and a new battery and motor set-up – to be built on all-new production lines.
Also he doesn’t have the luxury of large economies of scale by being part of a larger manufacturing group. When at Rolls-Royce in 2017, he told Autocar: ‘I was taught that you need a strong relationship with a volume car company to build the best low-volume cars. We learned that by using the 7 Series platform, the promised economies of scale weren’t as viable as we first thought.’
That’s good, then. Rolls-Royce now has an all-new architecture with which to build its new models from and, no doubt, it’s this way of working which will deliver the new luxury Jaguars. Luxury and craftsmanship will need to be flawless – and this is an area where Jaguar has recently struggled during its ill-fated journey to larger production volumes and a Audi/BMW/Mercedes-Benz approach to covering as many market sectors as possible.
Hello, brave new world
Jaguar Land Rover has form in moving quickly, though, so if any company can achieve the impossible, it is probably this one. Remember how it managed to build new factories, engines and an all-new model platform to guarantee the company’s post-Ford, Ingenium-powered future? That was an impressive achievement in a short period of time, even if there were more than a few quality issues along the way.
So, it’s likely that the project to ‘reimagine’ Jaguar can happen. Get the product out there, make it better than the best of the best, and reboot the company into a Bentley-baiting luxury rival. But it’s going to take money, and lots of it, and all of that comes down to the depths of parent company Tata’s pockets and commitment. Quite a thought, especially considering the global economic wasteland we’re currently staring down the barrel of, post COVID-19 Pandemic. So, it’s one hell of a gamble.
The bigger question is should it? Taking Jaguar upmarket is fraught with seemingly insurmountable challenges. Can the iconic brand be taken up there? Historically, Jaguars were cheaper than their rivals, and hunted in the executive car sector, not the luxury one. The very pinnacle of the range was covered by Daimler, and that really didn’t hold much resonance with buyers. Can Jaguar really be mentioned in the same breath as Bentley?
And that leads us to the real elephant in the room: Range Rover. Right up there at the very top of JLR’s model range is this model, which now costs between £100,000 and £200,000 depending on which version you plump for. And that’s before options. Its image as a luxury car has been nurtured since 2002, and today it goes toe-to-toe with the best cars in the world… and, in 2024, it’ll be offered in all-electric form.
In that world, do we really need Jaguar?
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