Let’s be honest. If one part of your company built the world’s most coveted and iconic – if not the original – sport utility vehicle, why would you focus another of your brands on building the same thing? That’s the dilemma for Jaguar Land Rover North America president Joe Eberhardt, who is debuting both a new Land Rover Defender this spring and a new Jaguar XJ sedan for 2021.
Jaguar stays focused on sedans
Given the overall reviews and ratings for Jaguar SUVs, the brand’s continued focus on sedans – although not exactly your grandpa’s Buick Electra – might be necessary to maintain Jaguar’s standing as a manufacturer of luxury rides. Consumer Reports gave the Jaguar E- and F-Pace models fairly abysmal ratings compared to other luxury SUVs, so Jaguar’s last best hope might be in staying a player in the shrinking sedan market.
Jaguars remain classic sports cars
Eberhardt sat down with the fellows at MotorTrend recently to talk about his lineup and made it clear that Jaguar remains committed to their flagship sedans. Here’s what he had to say when asked about ceasing production of those classic sports cars:
“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. While the volume might not be what it once was, we still think it’s the heart and soul of our company.”
Calling any kind of Jaguar a sedan seems kind of strange, but then again, referring to any sports car as traditional and elegant is unusual. But the feral English kitty is both, and Eberhardt is embracing that going forward.
The completely redesigned Jaguar XJ is a sedan. It’s also battery-powered. Jaguar is looking for some sort of lifeline to save its struggling flagship brands, and being eco-friendly certainly seems like a good idea. Consumer Reports gave the 2019 gas-powered XJ fairly glowing reviews, comparing it favorably to such stratospherically priced luxury rides (cars that cost as much as your house) like the Bentley Flying Spur, Porsche Panamera, or the newbie Tesla Model S.
The F-Type goes stickless
Manual transmissions and sports cars have always gone together like grits and gravy, but Jaguar goes off in a whole new direction by abandoning the stick shift in favor of automatic transmissions in the 2020 F-Type. Eberhardt said that for many luxury car consumers today, the art of driving a stick is a lost one, and they just aren’t selling those old-school transmissions. Whether this is a good move for Jaguar or not remains to be seen.
Overall reviews of the 2020 F-Type are not promising; this cat doesn’t stack up well against the competition in this rarified price range. Consumer Reports hasn’t tested the 2020 F-Type, but they say for the money, a Porsche Boxster or BMW 2 Series is a better bet. Just guessing here, but the perceived lack of quality and the fact that the German options top out under $75,000 while the Jag can run you over $125,000 could be a factor.
Jaguar is going green
Going forward with an all-electric Jaguar XJ signals Eberhardt’s commitment to sedans. The questions are what will those sedans look like, and what the production numbers will be? The XJ is unique among traditional sports cars in that it’s big enough to be a fancy family car, while the F-Type is clearly built for speed and performance.
Jaguar sales in the U.S. have been in a bit of a free fall for several years – only 1,167 XJs were sold in 2019, which is a 26 percent decline. F-Type models fared a bit better, with flat sales of 2,279. There’s a lot riding on both these redesigned vehicles.