Jag: we got it wrong


The X-Type will always have its supporters, but within Jaguar and former owners Ford the hapless 3 Series rival is being held up as an example of how not to do it. "A fake Jaguar" and "just a car" are two damning phrases we heard in recent chats to executives in Ford and Jaguar.

Both companies are paying close attention to the lessons learned as they separately take a crack at the 3 Series sector. Ford with the super-luxury 'Top Ghia' Vignale trim on the Mondeo and others. And Jaguar with a new saloon in 2015 sitting on a flexible rear-drive aluminium architecture previewed by the C-X17 crossover at Frankfurt this year.

This ugly duckling never grew into a swan
This ugly duckling never grew into a swan
We all know the story of the X-Type. New owners Ford wanted to massively expand the Jaguar brand and launched the small saloon in 2001 based on a modified Mondeo platform. Rearward looking but not rear-drive, the X-Type's styling just wasn't up to snuff, says Jaguar's current head of advanced design, Julian Thomson.

"The proportions were plainly wrong," he tells PistonHeads.

How so? "It was a front-wheel drive platform with a long front overhang and the cabin was in the wrong position," he says. "It didn't look mature or powerful or anything. It was just a car." Ouch.

Of course it also had the unhappily retro-styled front end with the quad headlamps. "There was a time when Jaguar was tremendously popular with very beautiful, classic cars, but it was plainly overplayed. It hung onto that too long," says Thomson.

Ford's trying the posh Mondeo thing again
Ford's trying the posh Mondeo thing again
This time Jaguar will get it right, he says, largely thanks to the new rear-drive (and four-wheel drive) architecture. Thomson says he and head designer Ian Callum were very specific on what they wanted from the new architecture to get the right look for the 3 Series rival.

"We wanted a sense of poise. The way the car sits on the wheels needs to be very authoritative [demonstrating] latent power. Big wheels right to the ends of the car, low bonnet, short overhangs, very low cabins. These are the sort of things we asked for," he tells us. And he says he got them too.

Ford meanwhile says it's much happier sprucing up the next version of the Mondeo for the top of the line Vignale trim than it was adapting the Mondeo to suit the demands of a more premium brand.

"Jaguar is the definition of a classical British car. I love it. But If you start to mix this up with a mass production brand you run the risk of losing such a brand," Ford of Europe head of quality, Gunnar Herrmann, tells us. "This is where people were getting concerned. They say, hey, this is a fake Jaguar, because every piece I touch is Ford."

Finally appealing as Shed opportunity knocks
Finally appealing as Shed opportunity knocks
The fact that the Mondeo wasn't a bad donor car doesn't matter to the majority of customers because it's all about perception. "A Jaguar chassis might not be as good as the Ford Mondeo, but it causes an immediate disconnect," Herrmann says.

Neither are saying outright the X-Type was a bad car overall (and it's temptingly close to Shed status now) but that it failed on two crucial areas: design and perception of what a Jaguar should be. The average PHer might not rank the perception part that high, but the fact remains X-Type sales stunk and both companies want to avoid that fate again.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (254) Join the discussion on the forum

  • XJ Flyer 05 Oct 2013

    tali1 said:
    XJ Flyer said:
    SAAB's fwd 4 cylinder designs were never going to be credible products in the low volume market sector.
    The 4 cylinders served them well .I suspect it was more a lack of investment by GM and hence an ageing and limited range of cars.
    Do you think BWW would sell less if they were fwd?
    The relevant question in this case is would Jaguar have made more money by entering the volume market sector even with a 6 cylinder fwd based car,let alone a 4 cylinder one.I think those loss figures caused by going for the X type posted earlier answer that question.The fate of SAAB ( and Rover under BMW ownership ) just confirms that answer.While notwithstanding any of that the fact is Jaguar never aimed it's products at the volume market sector anyway and that's how the marque should remain.

  • fatboy b 05 Oct 2013

    RenOHH said:
    DonkeyApple said:
    By the time the car launched all the main competition had them. The omission by Jaguar was purely about not having the money to do so. That's really what is so great about the XF, the limited budget under Ford on which it was designed and especially built. It then took TATA some time to redress the balance.
    I have heard (reliably) that the Ford CEO demanded the XF launched with those awful headlights. The original design was to launch the car with the front lamps on the 12MY refresh. As for LEDs, no idea.

    Edited by RenOHH on Saturday 5th October 09:34
    Your reliable contact was wrong.

  • RenOHH 05 Oct 2013

    DonkeyApple said:
    By the time the car launched all the main competition had them. The omission by Jaguar was purely about not having the money to do so. That's really what is so great about the XF, the limited budget under Ford on which it was designed and especially built. It then took TATA some time to redress the balance.
    I have heard (reliably) that the Ford CEO demanded the XF launched with those awful headlights. The original design was to launch the car with the front lamps on the 12MY refresh. As for LEDs, no idea.

    Edited by RenOHH on Saturday 5th October 09:34

  • DonkeyApple 05 Oct 2013

    fatboy b said:
    DonkeyApple said:
    fatboy b said:
    Some of what you say is true. Some isn't.

    XF was a car designed under Ford, not Tata, so the LED reference is rubbish. JLR management isn't all good, in fact a lot of it is stuck in the old BL management-by-fear era.

    They got lucky with the F-Type, but I worry what is going to happen with the 4x4 and baby Jag. It looks like they may play it safe with XF derived styling, rather than moving it on. I hope not.

    Ian Callum struggled with the XF shape, and Ford had to step in to save it. Good job, as it's now one of the best looking cars on the market, and streets ahead of anything German, even in it's twilight years. But thing have to move on.
    But where did I say the F was under TATA? I thought I said the opposite.

    Plus, it didn't get the LEDs until later after some clean money started coming in. Not sure why the lack of funds to match BMW and the ilk is linked to either owner, both of whom a debt ridden messes.
    You implied in your penultimate paragraph that the reason the XF had no LEDs was because Tata couldn't afford to let Jag put them on. The real reason is that the XF was designed before LEDs became fashionable, and before Ford even announced they were selling JLR.
    By the time the car launched all the main competition had them. The omission by Jaguar was purely about not having the money to do so. That's really what is so great about the XF, the limited budget under Ford on which it was designed and especially built. It then took TATA some time to redress the balance.

    The sad situation at present is that you can see that JLR is being stripped to finance other beleaguered parts of the empire and its very worrying to see that the latest news on the Defender replacement is that it is likely to be a pastiche on the Evoque pan.

    Some will also argue that it was Land Rover that kept them afloat in the worst times and while this is probably true it is the XF that put Jaguar back in the game.

  • fatboy b 05 Oct 2013

    DonkeyApple said:
    fatboy b said:
    Some of what you say is true. Some isn't.

    XF was a car designed under Ford, not Tata, so the LED reference is rubbish. JLR management isn't all good, in fact a lot of it is stuck in the old BL management-by-fear era.

    They got lucky with the F-Type, but I worry what is going to happen with the 4x4 and baby Jag. It looks like they may play it safe with XF derived styling, rather than moving it on. I hope not.

    Ian Callum struggled with the XF shape, and Ford had to step in to save it. Good job, as it's now one of the best looking cars on the market, and streets ahead of anything German, even in it's twilight years. But thing have to move on.
    But where did I say the F was under TATA? I thought I said the opposite.

    Plus, it didn't get the LEDs until later after some clean money started coming in. Not sure why the lack of funds to match BMW and the ilk is linked to either owner, both of whom a debt ridden messes.
    You implied in your penultimate paragraph that the reason the XF had no LEDs was because Tata couldn't afford to let Jag put them on. The real reason is that the XF was designed before LEDs became fashionable, and before Ford even announced they were selling JLR.

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