After endless of increasingly dismissive teaser videos and photos, Jaguar finally took the wraps of their latest cat, the new XJ. Taken place at the underappreciated Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea last week, Jay Leno unveiled the car along with Ellen Mcpherson who stole some lime light with gorgeous legs in a seductive shade of bronze. Moving on to the more important topic of the car, Jaguar taken a giant leap from the pact of other British car manufacturers by going down the path of voluptuous and muscular shapes, as opposed to sticking to the more upright wedge shape Jaguar africandos are used to. Like the slogan states, “The Icon re-imaginated”, Jaguar are reinventing themselves – this under the leadership of Ian Calum, head of design
This year the UK manufacturing industry will face the lowest electricity bills in decades – but all for wrong reasons. Machines in factories across the country are in standby mode, lights have been turned off and staff on a 4 day work week all because customer orders are not coming in fast enough. The unfortunate businesses which have swirled deep into the financial world of red numbers and failed to secure fiscal relief from the government, have had to file for bankruptcy. Even highly successful business that flourished in the highs of the credit bubble, haven’t managed to escape wrath of the deepening recession. If both viable and non-viable business are failing then what is the key to survival?
A common denominator shared by the crème of British luxury companies is their long history. Many have been in business since cavemen first discovered that wood can float on water. Having been operating for 50-300 years companies such as Purdey, Bentley, Harrods and Jaguar are have earned their stripes for surviving through recessions, great depressions and world wars. Against all odds, these companies have retained their business formula, image and appeal, with little or few changes made to business model. Either their management have been on the lazy side on running a business or they got the alchemy for success right from the start. Tradition and heritage has been close to the hearts and has been one of the key ingredients to success including worldwide recognition. When financial constraints are narrow, consumers see value and security in buying their favourite long term tradition brands. It’s back to basics. Caramel flavoured popcorn recommended by a spouse is ignored in favour of tradition salt pop corn while spam and nonsense product face neglect. Life is stripped to its essence and we get a clear picture of the products that define and matter most to us.
One of the biggest benefit in buying a product from a family owned business is that they are less prone to change in product offerings. How many times haven’t you managed to lose or involuntarily damaged personal belonging only to feel gutted knowing that it’s irreplaceable because it’s no longer in production? Only a few luxury companies offer an identical product over a several years long period – the only exception being fragrance companies. However, a great majority of leading luxury British craft companies repetitively supply the same or near identical versions of a product for years. But standing by tradition doesn’t come without risks. Iconic, small niche companies such as Bentley, Purdey and even watch manufacturer are under financial umbilical support from foreign conglomerates or investment firms which have rescued these venerable companies from bankruptcy.
Contrary to the association with high quality and exemplary craftsmanship, Jaguars and British cars have over decades gained an unfavourable reputation for poor reliability and quality of build. Japanese and German auto makers have on the other hand, been at the forefront of industry leading technology. Despite the hearsay about engine breakdowns, gearbox failures and oil leaks, luxury consumers have not been deterred from dreams of speeding in a drop-top racing green E-Type on the Isle of Man. Rationale and Jaguars have never stood side by side. Jaguars have never been bought on the basis of acceleration numbers, torque or built-in seat vibrators. Likewise with Aston Martins, Bentley’s and Rolls-Royces, a Jaguar is an extension of your style and perception of yourself – it’s something you wear and passionately get attached to. That is why no effort or attention to detail have been spared for the development of the new XJ which is a highly sculptured car. Emphasized by the flush relationship between the roof, rear windshield and boot lid which together form a smooth-lined rear-end that resembles the tail of a high speed train, deep thoughts are behind this undoubtedly revolutionary design.
On the opposite end of the car is a recognisable nose design with an empowering grill and sinister head lights easily recognisable as Jaguar traits. Very little else on the car is shared with the outgoing XJ model, as Ian Calum is leading Jaguar away from its past-oriented philosophy to a more new-age identity – Sort of like a change from Gordon Brown to David Cameron. The new direction has the potential to attract a clientele of new customers formerly uninterested in Jaguars, while traditionalist sober over the glamorous interior lit by new age blue-coloured light also deflected by the abundance of glossy surface finishes in the cabin. The highlight of the science fiction theme is the convoluted all digital dashboard. It is a TFT screen displaying visually captivating interface which resembles something one would expect to see in the Starship Enterprise. Unchartered territory has not been entered as the dual aerospace-influenced vents above the center console are nowadays a common decoration in even low-end cars, leaving the Jag cockpit echoing a generic design flaw.
However, the same cannot be said about the magnificent wood work that wraps around the interior in a style only seen in an auditorium like the Royal Prince Albert Hall or on small luxury yacht – a highly inventive design touch that could only have been conceived by a marvellous designer like Ian Calum, BMW’s former Chris Bangle and the Aston Martin DB9 and Vantage designer Henrik Frisker.
The XJ is a defining car of Jaguar’s efforts to turn the page and start a new chapter having been acquired by Indian Tata Motors from Ford’s poor and financially devastating parenting effort. Reviews and opinions on Jaguar’s mid-sized sedan, the XF, have nothing but short of praise and amazement for Jag that is surprisingly both seductively good looking and also offer a competitive driving experience that’s on a par with its German’s rival. Whether or not the new XJ’s shockingly radical appearance is the high road to success will be determined at the end of its life span, 6-7 years from now. It will either be visually outdated or have beautified over the years like its much admired predecessors or a walnut chest drawer.