Jaguar's Sportwagon Adds Utility to X-Type

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 29, 2005 | Go to article overview

Jaguar's Sportwagon Adds Utility to X-Type


Byline: Frank Aukofer, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

For life, variety is a spice. For an automobile company, it is life itself.

Whenever car people consider their circumstances, the talk always turns to product. You can have excellent management, quality control and engineering, but if you don't produce new and exciting products, you might as well pack up and go home.

The hallmark of a successful carmaker these days is variety - cars, trucks, SUVs, alternative power plants - anything that can fill a niche where anxious customers await.

When the Ford Motor Co. bought Great Britain's iconic Jaguar in 1989, it certainly intended something like that. Jaguar eventually became part of Ford's Premier Automotive Group (PAG), along with Volvo, Land Rover and Aston Martin.

Together, these prestigious nameplates were expected to fill many market niches, while at the same time benefiting from Ford's expertise, economies of scale and worldwide reach. But the lines were not thrown together; each was intended to stand on its own merit.

For Jaguar, it was a fortuitous event. The company had a long and distinguished heritage of producing exceptionally designed and engineered motorcars. But plagued by quality problems and a shortage of new products, it had not made inroads in the United States.

Ford aimed to change that. Quality was improved, and new models appeared. But some of them were spun off other Ford products. The S-Type was a classier and much more expensive version of the Lincoln LS. And when the new, compact X-Type appeared in 2001, it was met with some derision.

Critics argued that Jaguar diluted its heritage by moving downmarket. They sniffed at the fact that the X-Type came from the same basic platform as the European Ford Mondeo, which also spawned the ill-fated Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique in the United States.

Despite the brickbats, the X-Type did have a few things going for it - notably, standard all-wheel drive. But despite the styling, it did not have that classic Jaguar ambience.

In 2003 and 2004, Jaguar faltered and became the poorest performer in Ford's PAG. Sales dropped from 61,203 in 2002 to 54,655 in 2003 and 45,875 in 2004. The only model that held its own was the limited-production, top-of-the-line classic XJ sedan. Both the S-Type and X-Type fell, as did the XK sports car.

So the task for 2005 is to climb out of that ditch, and Jaguar is taking the first step with the new X-Type. For the first time, there's a station wagon, which the British generally call an estate wagon, and which Jaguar calls its Sportwagon.

It is a move toward bringing more variety to the lineup, soon to be followed, Jaguar aficionados hope, by even more spices, perhaps a crossover SUV (hey, Porsche did it with the Cayenne). …

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