Wednesday, 5 February 2014
Hotfire ‘moment of truth’ draws closer
The ‘moment of truth’ is fast approaching when Jaguar will unleash its BMW 3-Series basher, the new ‘baby' Jaguar, due to break cover this summer ahead of market launch in 2015.
The launch of the new car will see the arrival too of JaguarLandRover’s (JLR’s) new Hotfire range of gasoline and diesel engines that will gradually migrate across the company’s range of products, even hybrids in due coarse.
JLR design director Ian Callum said the company’s new D7A passenger car architecture could provide the building block for a number of different models. But for now, the focus is on the new smaller saloon and refreshing existing models.
Callum added: "We certainly need a smaller saloon in the range to give the Jaguar brand greater visibility on the road and we can't do that with a three-car range.”
"As for the C-X17, we are still quite small in automotive terms and so we have to prioritise what we do,” he said. “While we have a mission and an expectation to grow we have to balance this with cost and benefit. We also have a sister company that is very good at making premium SUVs.”
"We have to pick our targets and we are really only just getting to the point where people recognise what Jaguar is all about on a global scale," Callum noted.
JLR has claimed “no decision” has been taken on a production version of the CX17 sports utility vehicle (SUV) concept. However, SUVs play such an important part in both the performance and reach of the company that some derivation of CX17 will be certain to receive a go-ahead, if it has not already done so.
The new, smaller saloon car will give Jaguar a presence in the C-D sector against mainstream models from German premium brands, such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Even when Jaguar was owned by Ford Motor Company, BMW and Mercedes-Benz were both seen as benchmarks the company ought to be able to match or even exceed.
The new smaller saloon, along with the C-X17, it is based on the company's new D7A architecture.
Following the launch of the highly acclaimed F-Type, Callum said he has achieved his ambition, launched 10 years ago, to rejuvenate the Jaguar line up.
"It actually has taken longer than I thought it would and now I have sleepless nights worrying about where we go from here,” Cullum declared who has also overseen the arrival of the D-Type inspired design, Project 7.
"Top of my to-do list is refreshing our existing models – I am already working a facelift for the F-Type. My target now is a family of cars that will be instantly recognised as Jaguars. We are still not quite there and it's a real challenge."
How far can the brand be stretched?
"The new modular architecture will allow us to do any number of things, but once again it is all about priorities. Could we do something even smaller? I think we could but that is a decision that hasn't been made yet," conceded Callum.
Callum’s challenge is to think ahead and leap-frog the plans in the pipeline, taking in account along the way of the reception new vehicles receive as they are launched.
Callum has witnessed not only a transformation in JLR’s financial fortunes, but he has been privy to a gradual shortening of product life cycles. Seven years or so might have been the norm years ago, but the constant need to keep products ‘fresh’ inevitably means life cycles have to shorten. This in turn means more work for product planners, engineers and vendors, but most of all for designers. The search for new ideas and new themes is ever present.
On the shop floor, every aspect of JLR’s business is under scrutiny to become smarter and actions more deliberate. Nowhere is this more evident than in JLR’s digital world where young minds need to keep active and processes shorter and more reliable as the best opportunity is made of all resources.
Ford Motor Company acquired Jaguar cars in 1989 and land Rover in 2000 and then united them. Ford top brass must rue the day they released JLR into the hands of Tata Motors which not only had the forward vision to see the potential within locked JLR, but also had the motivation and the capacity to release that potential and transform it into a cohesive entity. Ford, seemingly, did not have such forward vision. If it did, it was fearful of putting it into action.
One thing is for certain. JLR’s new powertrains will play a vital role in the acceptability of the new products and in this respect the new engine plant at the i54 location outside Wolverhampton will play an equally crucial role.
No longer will it be acceptable to blame engine suppliers for shortfalls in product design, performance, reliability and durability. The responsibility will lie fairly and squarely on JLR product design, R&D, purchasing, vendors and manufacturing to deliver high-level engines with ZF providing mating automatic transmissions.
Whatever is under the bonnet – gasoline or diesel – will have to match or excel what forms the skin in terms of silkiness, reliability and performance. And in this respect vendors such as Ricardo of Shoreham-on-Sea have a lynch pin role to play also.
So, if the Hotfire engines do not perform to benchmark standards, the power units will certainly be in the hot fire.