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Where Are Jaguar’s Kittens?


2011 Jaguar XJ

2011 Jaguar XJ

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Jaguar makes some of the best, most beautiful, and most original cars on the road, but their lineup is painfully small. The new XJ tops the range nicely, and the XK is a good-enough GT, but that’s it. The XF still looks great, but Jaguar has offered almost no versatility to it. In North America, they don’t offer a V-6. They don’t offer different bodystyles either. It’s understandable that they don’t offer a coupe (probably for fear that it would cannibalize XK sales), but they don’t even offer a wagon anywhere in the world--in Europe wagons can account for half of a model’s sales.

On the other hand, almost every one of their competitors does. The A6, 5-Series, and E-Class all offer the choice between sedan and wagon. It’s not just the Germans, either. Cadillac is in on the game now--on both sides of the Atlantic. Jaguar is clearly fashion-forward but these opponents all prove that wagons can be good-looking. Furthermore, Jaguar doesn’t plan on offering a crossover. This is a whole other gap, but it means that customers looking for more utility won’t be split between two different vehicles from the same brand.

Now, the reason for Jaguar not offering a crossover may seem pretty clear: Tata Motors (owner of Jaguar) also owns Land Rover. In fact, Tata Motors founded JLR (try to guess what that stands for) to manage these brands together. However, demand for crossovers is huge and there are many people who think they look better than the equivalent wagon, particularly in North America. In fact, other than ride height, the only differences between these bodystyles are superficial. This means that a Jaguar crossover wouldn’t have to be built from a Land Rover platform. The Jaguar could be marketed as the sportier, on-road choice, putting plenty of space between the Jag and any Land Rover.

But now we’ve come to the elephant in the room, or, more accurately, the biggest space that’s suspiciously missing its elephant: the compact executive segment. Per car, there is very little profit in this segment but it is the biggest market that Jaguar is absent from. It’s also an important way to bring new customers to the brand. If you impress a customer with your smaller, cheaper offering, they’ll come back to you when they’re looking to buy something better. If you really blow them away, they won’t even shop around before buying their next car.

With all these gaps, and no plans to fill them, what is Jaguar working on? The only reports are rumors of a possible compact sports car. As or January last year these plans were still on track. Lately, though, all the hype has been about the XJ. A small roadster sounds great for Jaguar, especially if it’s a true sports car rather than a GT, but questions of profitability and possibility still hang overhead. The C-type, as they’re now calling it (defying their current naming conventions for some reason), doesn’t sound like the mass market sales success that Jaguar needs, despite all the good it would do for the brand’s reputation.

To sum it all up, the big cat needs to start breeding.

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