Friday, February 20, 2015

JAGUAR TAILS - PART THREE - 'Fixing' the Focus

During a visit to Ford HQ in Dearborn in March 1992, my friend Jack Telnack, head of global design for Ford, had invited me to his ‘skunkworks’ studio to look at the Jaguar coupe design concept he and his team of young design students had created. This was the property Telnak planned to submit to the ‘Ford-Jaguar Clinic’ to be held at Dunton.

I had to tell him that, in my humble opinion, it was terrible. The team had gathered together every Jaguar design cue they could identify and grafted them all onto the concept model. The car was a mish-mash of themes, and there was no cohesive spirit in the design. It might have been confused with a Porsche 928, it certainly didn’t look like a Jaguar!

Geoff Lawson
A week later I got a call in my office in New Jersey from Jaguar’s chief designer, Geoff Lawson, who relayed the results from the Dunton clinic.

He said he had the impression the Ford Board would continue to push for the Ghia property ("The Hoover"). He said the Ghia model was pretty horrible, but despite X100 getting enthusiastic support from William Clay Ford Sr., Geoff Lawson was worried the preferred Jaguar concept might just disappear off the radar.

We needed a strategy, and a set of tactics which would influence the Ford decision in favor of X100, created at Whitley by Geoff Lawson, and the design team led by Fergus Pollock, and designer Gary Doy.

Following the challenging confrontation at the Ford Board review meeting at Dunton, a cadre of key Jaguar executives on both sides of the Atlantic had determined that trying to provoke a positive emotional response (and final approval) to X100 would clearly fail.

Ford Board of Directors Styling Sign-off
The Ford Board would only be influenced by unarguable statistical data, which would have to come from a focus group, or ‘clinic’, because that was what the Board members were used to when approving new Ford models.


The Jaguar Cars North American management team figured on a belt-and-braces approach, and was tasked to come up with a strategy to build additional, and unequivocal support for X100.

It was decided the program would be in three parts. First, the JCNA President would take the 10 members of the American Jaguar Dealer Council to Whitley for a focus group and viewing.

American media Group visit to Jaguar
Then, as PR Director, I would take a group of six key American automotive writers to Whitley, all of whom I selected because of their enthusiasm for classic Jaguars. 

Thirdly, we would conduct a ‘clinic’ in New York, showing photographs of the concepts to a focus group of a select group of existing Jaguar owners.

The media focus group and viewing took place in Whitley on June 1, 1992.

Jaguar's Design & Engineering Centre, Whitley
However, it was how the viewings were staged in the Whitley design centre which was to be crucial to the outcome. Geoff Lawson and I discussed a number of tactics.

He managed to convince the Ford USA executives that all the concepts to be judged would not fit in the smaller Whitley studio at the same time, so we would have to ‘move’ the cars around, and in fact at some point, perhaps remove one concept and replace it with another.

We planned to always present the Jaguar X100 concept last, so every time we opened the studio’s huge sliding doors, to ‘move’ a concept model, there would always be an opportunity for the focus group participants to ‘accidentally’ see X100 in the staging area.

We did this with both the American dealer and media groups, with some subtle changes in how the ‘reveal’ of the Jaguar concept should take place.

During the dealer group viewing the sheet covering X100 accidentally slipped off, during a ‘move’, and they spied the Jaguar model only briefly, which only heightened their sense of anticipation.

With the media group we ensured that the competing models were only glimpsed at first from front-on, and the Jaguar model would be in full profile, favoring the three-quarter rear view.

Suffice to say, it was a successful strategy. All of the focus groups overwhelmingly voted the Jaguar X100 model the outright winner, statistically head and shoulders above the competing concepts.
Jaguar X100 production model

The Ghia property, apparently the strongest competitor, came in for particularly disparaging comments from the American focus groups.

William Clay Ford, Sr - Detroit Lions owner
When the Ford Board met in Dearborn to consider the outcome of the Dunton review meeting, and the later focus groups, it was clear Jaguar’s X100 was far and away the clear favorite, so William Clay Ford, Sr. moved quickly to get final approval for the Jaguar concept.


Jaguar X100 convertible design concept
The X100 convertible was designed at the same time as the coupe, but lack of funding from Ford meant it had to ‘get on line’ to be produced.

The resulting Jaguar XK coupe and convertible, presented by the late Geoff Lawson went on to become hugely successful cars, and like their XJ-S predecessors - contributed a lot of revenue to Jaguar’s bottom line.

The late Geoff Lawson (left) and X100 Design Leader Fergus Pollock with 'The Twins'

However, as Ford Motor Company had ‘loaded’ the Jaguar Cars Balance Sheet with the debts stemming from the (USD$2.4 billion) acquisition costs, it resulted in Jaguar Cars never making a profit under Ford ownership.

Sir Rattan Tata (centre)

That pleasure had to wait until Jaguar was eventually acquired by Tata Group.


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