Monday 19 September 2016

Next Jaguar XE reinforces ally ‘road map’

The message in Jaguar’s ‘Road Map’ always claimed that the XE saloon could be built at the firm’s Land Rover plant in Solihull or Jaguar’s ‘home plant’ of Castle Bromwich. In the event, Solihull became the XE’s first port of call but with the option production could be moved to Castle Bromwich should the need arise.
That option is now being taken up, prompted largely by a major uptake in demand for F-PACE which has exceeded all expectations. Similar demand is also shared by XE.
And so it is that JaguarLandRover (JLR) executives have declared an intent to launch XE, the mid-sized premium sport sedan at Castle Bromwich – marking the return of all Jaguar sports and saloon car manufacturing to the Birmingham plant.
Manufacturing engineers will gradually transfer XE from Solihull – and thus demonstrate the flexibility of JLR’s West Midlands’ manufacturing operations which represent over £1 billion of infrastructure investment at Solihull and Castle Bromwich.
This investment in new press lines, body shops and final assembly halls supports production of three Jaguar models (F-PACE, XE and XF are all built on the same lightweight vehicle architecture).
The arrival of XE at Castle Bromwich does however require some £100 million additional investment to support manufacture. The latest tranche (which continues the renaissance of a plant once slated for closure by Ford Motor Company in 2008) brings to over £500 million that which has been poured into the plant over the last two years to support continuous improvement of XF, F-TYPE and low-volume XJ production at the plant.
The £500 million invested at Castle Bromwich in support of XF and XE introduction includes some £320 million spent on a state-of-the art aluminium body shop – the largest single investment in the history of the Castle Bromwich plant.
Pivotal to this aluminium body shop is the pioneering use of Henrob’s self-piercing rivet technology which form the basis of joining aluminium body panels in place of spot welding.
Possibly the most flexible and versatile of its kind throughout JLR, this shop is capable of switching between Jaguar's entire range of models mid-production.
In addition to the shop, JLR has spent £16 million on a new blanker line; £50 million on a new Aida Engineering Ltd press line; £30 million on significant upgrades in trim and final assembly and £25 million on new automated storage retrieval system (ASRS).
Interestingly, Aida Europe GmbH last month opened a sales office in Weingarten, Gwermany, a part of the world that serves as home to some famous German automotive press makers. Ford, for example, chose to install presslines from Schuler at the Jaguar Castle Bromwich plant when it was in power!
                                     A rich heritage
Nicolas Guibert, Castle Bromwich ops director, claims 2016 is a pivotal year for Castle Bromwich.
“The arrival of the XE sees us increase our model lines and volume,” he says. “This plant has a rich heritage and is undergoing its most significant transformation in decades, with major infrastructure projects either complete or under way. The commissioning of our all-new press line and launch of our body shop to support the introduction of XE means Castle Bromwich is future-proof.”
It was this “rich heritage” that Ford was quite happy to dump into Indian hands when, in March 2008, it sold Jaguar Cars and Land Rover to Tata Motors for $2.3 billion, less than half that which it paid several years before.
Now, eight-and-a-half years later, in August 2016, Jaguar sales stood at 85,726 for the year, an increase of 72 per cent on 2015. This strong performance, driven primarily by F-PACE, the fastest selling Jaguar of all time, and XE, which made its US market debut in the summer, tends to highlight the huge mistake which the US automaker made in failing to recognise – and mobilise – the potential of JLR.
JLR’s Solihull plant will continue to operate on three shifts, 24 hours a day, to keep up with global demand for the Jaguar F-PACE and Range Rover Sport, both of which are built on the same production line.
It may be recalled that, created from a clean sheet, XE was the first model to be developed using Jaguar's advanced lightweight aluminium architecture. Knitted with a double-wishbone and integral link suspension systems, the combination offered rivalled ride, handling and refinement. 
Engineers claims XE is the “most fuel-efficient” Jaguar and offers the lowest total cost of ownership of any Jaguar, boasting leading residual values and CO2 emissions from just 99g/km. 
The next generation XE will continue in this same mould.
Jaguar XE (codename X760) was launched at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2014 with production beginning in April 2015.
                                Self-piercing rivet technology
XE was the first midsize car that Jaguar produced following the 2009 model year X-Type and its arrival moved the company away from the Ford derived platforms used for the previous X-Type and XF. The use of Jaguar's own platform not only allowed XE to feature either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive configurations, but it was the first car in its segment with an aluminium monocoque structure.
Dr. Mark White, Jaguar’s long-time expert in lightweight material body-in-white (BIW) structures played a key part in the development of XE, as indeed he did with the arrival in 2004 of the XJ with its 5000 and 6000 series aluminium alloys, used in conjunction with cold-forming Henrob self-piercing rivet (SPR) technology.
It could be argued that through the use of aluminium (and the joining techniques associated with it) XE could be seen as the most important car that Jaguar launched in its history as it introduced SPR technology into a high-volume car.
In the wider context, XE represented a turnaround in British automotive engineering and manufacturing knowhow. Through new owner Tata Motors, XE served as proof that British designers and engineers could produce product able to bear close scrutiny against the best in the world.
Certainly, it helped JLR to stand shoulder-to-shoulder alongside Japanese and German automakers – such as Nissan Motor Company, Toyota Motor Company and Honda Motor Company from Japan and Germany’s BMW with its British-built MINI.
Jaguar believed at the time that XE’s body shell was the lightest in its class, featuring as it did various advances in materials technology in addition to a number of material advances over other JLR aluminium vehicles. 
Foremost was perhaps the first application of RC5754 aluminium alloy developed with Novelis.
Dr. White explained at the time: "We will be generating a lot of processed scrap in higher volumes with this car and we will be getting end of life vehicles starting to come back in 5-10 years’ time so we decided to take the pioneering step towards full closed loop recycling including aftermarket scrap. RC5754 is the first of a highly recycled alloy used in automotive application and we will go on to develop more."
And so the story continues…

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