Sunday, April 10, 2011
Battle at the most important premium segment
In the United States, the weight behind the iconic Jaguar marque is... I don't think there's any weight at all. The older V12 XKS's were popular amongst young lawyers of the 90's, I imagine. But as the XKS finally went out of production and the XJ saloon showed its age, Jaguar steadily lost prominence in the North American market even though the Jaguar owner of the time was none other than Ford Motor Company.
If I were to walk out now and ask a stranger on the street to name five prestige brands off the top of their head, although I'm not sure why I would, their answer will most likely begin with Mercedes Benz, BMW, Audi and Lexus before they would get around to Jaguar, if at all.
It's a shame as I've been quite fond of Jaguars. It's got that heavy, industrial, bank heist, Irish baddie with fingerless driving gloves charisma. On the flip side, it leaves Coventry with that proper upright posture to play as the British royal carriage. Unfortunately, like everyone else, I've been wary of Jag's history of unreliability.
I was pleasantly surprised, then, to learn that Jaguar performed very well on JD Power & Associate's 2011 dependability score. Jaguar has really been on the move lately. After Tata Motor's recent ownership, the line-up received a healthy and very promising rejuvenation.
And according to the Tata executives, Jaguar's next mission is to introduce a compact sport luxury sedan marketed squarely against the German titans of the segment-- BMW 3 series, Mercedes Benz C class, and the Audi A4. The reasoning behind Jaguar is simple; in order to effectively compete with the other players, they must compete in every single segment.
With BMW's ever growing niche market vehicles like their 5-series gran turismo crossover, I'd disagree with Jaguar's "every single segment." But surely, to enter BMW 3-series territory is a practical thing to do. It comes across as common sense.
There is one thing though. A catch. Jaguar also acknowledges that the platform will be front wheel drive. And this concerns me; ever since the 3-series came to market more than 30 years ago, how many fwd competitors were able to surpass it? The Ford Mondeo and the Volvo S60 are respectable, but neither came even close. Neither held the same brand equity and one of them isn't even sold here. Moreover, Jaguar's last efforts was in the failed X-type. I don't even want to talk about it.
But now it's the revival of Old England we're talking about, India's Tata Motors or not! Every single Jaguar model of late has been better than the one before it, they're back on the radar and Ian Callum is the chief exterior designer. This is their moment and with the anticipation of a smaller Jaguar, I'd expect to see a nimbler brawler with all the charisma of the Mk2 and I certainly expect to see a Jaguar I want to buy.