Jaguar gave the 2021 Jaguar F-Type, viewed as the heart and soul of the Jaguar brand, a substantial refresh for the 2021 model year. And an all-new Jaguar XJ sedan is coming, albeit as a battery-electric vehicle. In an automotive world that is eschewing cars in favor of SUVs and trucks, the British brand is sticking to its roots as a maker of elegant sports cars and sedans.
But the popularity of the new crossovers is not deterring Jaguar from investing in its car lines, Joe Eberhardt, president and chief executive officer of Jaguar Land Rover North America, told MotorTrend in an interview earlier this year.
“The future of sedans is a challenge for the entire industry. A lot of our competitors have said they will walk away from sedans. We have no intention to do that. The fact that we just launched a refreshed F-Type is proof that we still believe in sports cars, especially the Jaguar brand. And while the volume might not be what it once was, we still think that it’s the heart and soul of our company.”
Slowing car sales raise questions about the futures of the XF, XE, and even the F-Type. In the U.S., Jaguar sold 1,187 XF sedans in 2019, down 49 percent from the previous year; XE sales were down 25 percent to 3,551; F-Type sales were flat at 2,279; and the aging XJ had a 26 percent decline to 1,167 sold in the U.S. Another issue for the XE and XF is that they are assembled at JLR’s Castle Bromwich plant, which is being retooled to make electric vehicles, including the next-generation XJ. The XE and XF would need to evolve into electric vehicles or find a new production site.
But walking away from the F-Type, or cars in general, is “definitely not going to happen,” Eberhardt said. “Sedans will have a future with the Jaguar brand. The question is what those sedans will look like and how many will there be. Those are all things we will study over the next couple of years.”
But Eberhardt confirmed there are no plans to add more cars to the lineup, and while there are no cuts planned currently, things could change. “We will definitely always be in sedans. That’s no question. I also am not sure whether we’ll pare it down. I’m not sure about that but maybe they’ll look slightly different. So, for instance, the next-generation XJ will be fully electric. So, it’s a different interpretation of a sedan but it’s a sedan.”
We expect to see the new Jaguar XJ later this year and the expectation is it will be gorgeous. And it will not have a crossover silhouette—it will be an executive sedan. While Jaguar is better-positioned for having expanded into SUVs or crossovers, the brand’s North American head honcho is more tight-lipped about plans to expand the crossover line.
“Nobody would have expected SUV’s to make up three quarters of the North American market with a couple of months in a row where they were 75 percent,” Eberhardt said. “If you said that three years ago, nobody would have believed it so, the speed and the extent of that shift is unprecedented and quite frankly we didn’t plan for it. So, pure stroke of luck or changes, I don’t know which one. At least we have an SUV now with Jaguar.”
SUVs will always the domain of Land Rover, so adding crossovers to the Jaguar brand is a challenge from a product strategy and product planning perspective, the CEO said. He thinks the line between the two brands is being respected. “We have demonstrated that we can position the cars effectively side by side and there’s a clear delineation between them. If you take a Jaguar F-Pace and a [Land Rover] Range Rover Velar, they are built partially on the same platform but they have a distinct, unique personality.”
Eberhardt did not comment on reports of a larger J-Pace in the works. “We don’t talk about future product plans in general. For the time being, we have enough to do with the vehicles we launched so, no immediate plans. ” Autocar reports that the J-Pace will use the automaker’s all-aluminum MLA platform, which will underpin all JLR vehicles by 2025.
Overall, Eberhardt likes the current size of Jaguar Land Rover as a company and, before the health crisis interrupted car sales, he said he expects the next two or three years as a consolidation period after a few years of above-average growth in North America. “We’ll be very happy if we stay flat year over year for the next two, three years.”