Tuesday, June 29, 2021

SAVING JAGUAR? AGAIN? by John Crawford

This time it won’t be thanks to smoke and mirrors PR bullshit generated by invoking Jaguar’s famous and impressive history, or the myths and legends.

The stark reality is that Jaguar finds itself at a confluence of conflicting trends, constantly-changing consumer preferences, ravaging and concerted competition, product missteps, over-ambitious objectives and, sadly, the impact of the global COVID pandemic.

Yes, it must be described as the ’Perfect Storm’, one which could see this almost-century old company consigned to the dustbin, along with many other famous marques which vanished after a valiant struggle to survive.

Forget Bill Lyons’ humble Swallow Sidecar start-up, it was glamorous, fast, high-performance saloons beginning with the Mark IVs .

Awash with wood, leather and sexy wire wheels it was those early saloons which most people will remember as Jaguar’s real beginnings - and all the great cars which followed.

Saloons, sports cars, racing cars and most of all, everything tinged with an individual, artistic beauty celebrating speed – standing still.

Yes, Jaguar has been around for just shy of a century, and has been ‘saved’ almost as many times as Aston Martin. 

The only difference was that for many of those 100 years Jaguar was very profitable at times – whereas Aston Martin has never made a profit.

It’s only thanks to stalwarts like Ratan Tata and Lawrence Stroll that they are with us today.

Those men are just the latest in the long line of ’believers’ who threw in pots of cash to keep the dream alive. I remember a quote from one of Aston Martin’s many owners, that: “Making money with Aston Martin was optional.”

Tata Group is facing that very prospect right now, with global sales plummeting, and the saloons (sedans) for which Jaguar became famous seem to have the kiss of death attached to them. It has been Jaguar’s outstanding SUVs which have grimly held on to Jaguar’s market space.

But, hey, don’t they compete with Jaguar’s Land Rover stablemates?

Why, yes. That IS the case. Jaguar’s product planners recognized early on that its sedans were losing appeal, and accelerated the introduction of F-Pace, E-Pace and the brilliant i-Pace (below).

Suddenly the Jaguar sales charts saw the SUVs up, and sedans down. Facelifts, new engines and redesigned interiors all increased the appeal of the sedans, but not the sales.

In 2020 Jaguar’s sedan sales dropped off a cliff, from an already low base, by 37%. According to Britain’s AUTOCAR, Jaguar registered just 103,000 cars worldwide in 2020 less than a third of Land Rover’s total sales, and down from 162,000 in 2019. By comparison BMW’s sales falloff was a manageable 8%, but it still sold more than 2.3 million cars globally.

Jaguar’s only bright spot was China, where sales lifted by 20% - outperforming the market! But Jaguar can’t hang its hat on that continuing, because competition in the Chinese market moves at a frantic pace, as everyone wants a piece of the pie.

Okay, so enough of the scene-setting. What happens next? JLR’s new CEO is ex-Renault boss Thierry Bolloré, and he has blown into town with a range of band aids and most recently an announcement that ALL Jaguar’s range with be all-electric by 2025.

On the EV front Jaguar truly led the industry with its i-Pace SUV, and that platform was supposed to underpin the move to an all-electric range.

However, Bolloré has hung the sword of Damocles over the big, all-electric XJ sedan, strongly hinting he will pull the plug on its introduction.

The elephant in the room is that, like every other carmaker, Jaguar has way too much manufacturing capacity – a paradigm which has be-devilled the car industry for decades.

Also, there are a huge number of EV startups which are showing that they can flexibly build only as many cars as they can sell, with revolutionary and inventive attention to designing manufacturing plants that are not saddled with massive volumes, needed to justify the massive investments.

In that Jaguar is not alone. Today’s manufacturing capacity versus ROI paradigm must change, but all car companies are saddled with all these bricks and mortar facilities, and thousands of jobs.

AUTOCAR (February 3) even floated the idea that Jaguar could turn to smaller companies like Austria’s Magna Steyr, or Stellantis’ Alfa Romeo to build low volumes of sedans – touting Alfa Romeo’s under-utilized Giorgio platform which is the base of the Giulia and Stelvio!

However, and I say this as someone who was a senior Jaguar executive for close to 20 years, I have thought for decades that Jaguar’s paradigm needed a reset, in fact it should have happened the minute Ford disposed of JLR to Tata.

I will admit they were much rosier times, which encouraged Tata Motors to give Jaguar its head, and let it indulge in a massive new model onslaught on the market.

But, isn’t there always a time when you need to go back to basics? What was the real key to Jaguar’s identity and appeal? What was that mysterious, intrinsic value which was the absolute foundation of ‘The Leaper’? And its generations of fans – who still resolutely LOVE the brand.

That key element was something I just mentioned – value

Under Bill Lyons’ guidance Jaguar always offered ‘all this’ for only ‘this much money’. A known tightwad, Lyons never let Jaguar grow beyond what he thought the market would respond to, and still make a profit. It was true that cars like the 1962 E-type, and the 1968 XJ6 offered (basically) a Bentley for much less money.

It was hard not to win fans with that proposition. Buying a Jaguar made you smug, because you drove a car with brilliant design, engineering, ride and handling, performance and sumptuous, cosseting interiors for much less than any other British-built premium cars.

Wait a minute! Am I saying that under Tata, Jaguar should have gone back to basics, identified the ‘Jaguar proposition’ and taken the marque back to the Bill Lyons strategy? 

Yes, I am. Even as my time with the company came to an end in 1994, I strongly maintained Jaguar had the potential to get too big for its boots.

A massive increase in sales was not, in my opinion, the key to Jaguar’s stability.

With strong support from Ratan Tata and Ralph Speth, Tata Motors decided to push the boundaries of what was possible, and reap the profits by vastly expanding its market share.

I believe that if Jaguar had taken the position of continuing to follow Lyons well-known formula with its sedans and sports cars; and left Land Rover to do what it does best, the JLR situation would be far better than it is.

It would also have had a beneficial side-effect, in that Jaguar cars would actually have become more exclusive (on lower volumes), and the business case for that formula would have produced very substantial profit margins, whilst not growing the brand beyond its ability to satisfy demand.

Many of my industry colleagues reading this will say I’m talking a lot of ‘tosh’. To justify what Tata paid Ford for the two brands, it had to rapidly ramp up the profit potential to help pay the borrowing costs (interest) of the acquisition.

If JLR had been recalibrated then, Jaguar and Land Rover’s future landscape would not have led us to where we are now – facing not just the end of Jaguar sedans and sports cars, but possibly the demise of the marque itself.

It’s worth taking a slightly closer look at its new CEO, Thierry Bolloré. 

I have never met the man, but I have read every opinion piece I can access, to try and understand his capabilities, abilities, outlook and demeanor.

He is known to be sophisticated, with a very well-rounded industry background in a multitude of senior, or CEO, roles. He is also known as a strict disciplinarian, and a calm decision-maker, with an almost Ghosn-like ability to weigh up decisions and act resolutely. He does however have a ‘hard edge’ to his management style,

You could say, that’s just what JLR needs, but sadly, the company is saddled with over capacity, limited funding, falling sales and profits, and all the other elements which erode conventional carmakers’ ability to react both quickly and instinctively to rapid changes in the market.

One of the ideas that may well appeal to Bolloré is to take Jaguar upmarket - up against strongly established premium rivals. But, that's like launching an all-new brand, and really shaking up current Jaguar devotees in the bargain. Could that work? I doubt it - if only because it will soak up even more precious funds.

Traditionally Jaguar operated in a niche it created. Above mere luxury cars, and under Premium Luxury, and, whilst the quality was maintained, it dominated its own segment.

Is it too late to reset the paradigm? Yes, sadly, I think it is. I believe Jaguar will struggle on and fade away in an ignominious series of tragic, last-minute decisions, which will have the odor of inevitability about them.

I finish with the words of a senior union leader at JLR: “If the bosses threaten to shut it down, or halve the number of jobs, we can shut this company down faster than any management decision.”

Grab the Kleenex tissues kiddies, I think it’s going to be one of those endings.


    John Crawford began working with Jaguar in 1977, holding a number of senior executive positions, and resigned from the company in 1994. Prior to 1977, from 1968 he wrote extensively about the brand as a freelance, and full time, automotive writer, and enjoyed very close relations with many senior Jaguar figures – including a long friendship with Chairman Sir John Egan.





Wednesday, June 23, 2021


Fresh from welcoming the new Jaguar XJ6 Series III, my wife and I joined up in Munich, then a train to St. Anton am Arlberg – one of Europe’s most popular ski resorts.

Friends had told us we must take the cable car to the Valluga summit and ski back down into St. Anton.

Easier said than accomplished for a couple new to skiing. I started in 1969, but my wife only took to the slopes in 1975, and as the cable car glided silently to the summit (at 9000ft – 2800m) I could see her eyes opening wider and wider.


Valluga was used for a number of ski chases in a couple of Bond movies, but Bond was never in St. Anton. As the photos show, at the takeoff point next to the cable car station there is not a lot of room, when dozens of skiers are milling around, taking their brave pills, and summoning up levels of courage they probably never thought they possessed.

Certainly, the immediate takeoff is very, very steep, so lots of turns to get to a plateau about two kilometres further down the slope. I must give my wife her due, she gritted her teeth and made it safely down to the staging plateau, from where the wider slopes made for a much more enjoyable blue run back to the village of St. Anton.

My wife crossed over to Nordic (Langlauf) skis, and is now an accomplished cross-country skier. Me? I still remember the rush from downhill skiing.


After COVID restrictions are lifted, I suggest a visit to the Arlberg, and a single run, which pretty much takes all day to complete – but it offers a variety of black and blue runs, beautiful slopes, and the chance to visit a couple of nearby villages.


The red lines mark the lifts, and the blue lines mark the runs (more or less), but from Valluga you can ski down into Lech, take the Rufikoftbahn 2 to the top, and it’s a great run down into Zurs. After lunch in Zurs, you take the Trittkonfbahn up, and then ski back to St. Anton.


My son, Matt, spent six seasons in Kirchberg as a snowboard instructor, and I visited him once, to join him in Pass Thurn, and ski down into Kitzbühel. As he said to me: “Welcome to my office, Dad.”

I've skied in Australia, Canada, the USA and Europe, and I have to say the slopes of Europe seem to be more as nature intended and the ambience is fantastic.


Sadly, in 2006 I severed my left ACL on a steep powder slope in Verbier, Switzerland and despite a successful repair job, I haven’t the courage to go back to the slopes. If I do get my bravery back I'd like to try Niseko in Japan.


All of the areas I have mentioned make for great driving routes in the summer. There’s nothing more beautiful than the Austrian alps and the valleys covered with a blanket of bright green grass and beautiful wildflowers – once seen, never forgotten.

John Crawford

Tuesday, June 22, 2021


 From my 'mole' at Hyundai, a tantalising glimpse of the new Elantra N - coming soon. Looks very sharp from this angle. Stay tuned.


Monday, June 21, 2021


In 1979 I was privileged to attend my first ‘international’ press event, as a host – the launch of the Series III Jaguar XJ6, in the UK. I had joined Leyland Australia in 1977 as its new PR Manager, following my participation in the 1977 Singapore Airlines London-to-Sydney Car Rally in a Leyland Mini Moke.


At the time Jaguar sales in Australia were very disappointing, owing to the lack of attention, and the general ineptitude of the Leyland Australia PR staff. Consequently, I was only allowed to take two journalists with me.


I chose my good friend Peter Robinson (left, who was editor of Australia’s WHEELS magazine for 16 years), and a Melbourne journalist, the late, and much admired Chris de Fraga (below) – who was automotive editor for The Age, to accompany me.

It was the first time in my PR career that I was required to host two very senior journalists, so the event was a steep learning curve, after switching from being hosted as a journalist, to being the host.

The Series III was a stop gap, because the XJ40 program was late, and in fact the Series III included many features intended for the new car, so in itself it was totally different to the S2.

It was mid-February, when we arrived at London Heathrow, and I thought it was practically balmy, as we walked across the tarmac, carrying our warm jackets.

We were driven down to the English ‘Riviera’ in Daimler Majestic saloons and ensconced in Torquay’s finest hotel – The Imperial.

Keep in mind that in England's short summer this is a major destination for holidaymakers, intent on enjoying its somewhat brisk waters and cobbled beaches.

Next morning as we arrived in the hotel courtyard, six Jaguar saloons were arranged, and I was surprised to find there were two yellow, two red and two white (more on this later). We saddled up, with a Jaguar executive accompanying each journalist.

Also attending was a solitary Japanese journalist, Shotaro Kobayashi, who for many years was editor of Japan’s CAR GRAPHIC magazine.

As there were not enough Jaguar people to ride in each car, I was paired with Kobayashi-san.

It turned out that he was the complete Japanese Anglophile, right down to his choice of clothes – houndstooth jacket, flat cap and shoes from Churches.

Shotaro was also a delightful companion, and that trip began a very long friendship between us – although I only ever saw him when I attended motor shows in Tokyo.

As you would expect, Shotaro had enjoyed many such events, and he was the full book on the cars he had driven and written about, and revealed an extensive historical knowledge of automobile development. He was 'the real thing'. A journalist (and enthusiast) of great integrity.


The driving route followed the M5 for a short distance, then branched off to follow a route leading to the Cotswolds (of course), with a lunch stop at the Crown & Anchor pub in Marlborough along the way.

The 197 mile route took us about six hours through the Cotswolds, winding through the classically-beautiful villages of Burford and Bourton-on-the-Water - ending in historic Stratford-upon-Avon.


Our digs for the night – was a luxurious and sumptuous old country manor house, which had been converted into the The Welcombe Hotel.

The dining room was of course a heavily panelled affair with deep pile Wilton carpets, and the lounge featured a welcoming, and warming roaring fire. Just the place for car blokes to enjoy a convivial chat about the new Series III Jaguars.

Peter Robinson had been seated next to Jaguar MD, Bob Knight during dinner, and they were soon engrossed in deep conversation about lots of automotive subjects, apart from what we were there to celebrate, and their conversation continued later in the bar.


I should add that the Australian Motor Heritage Foundation recently asked Peter Robinson to write a feature based on his recollections of the conversation with Bob Knight, and you can read his compelling story by cutting and pasting the following link:




Next morning the Daimler Majestic saloons were lined up in the Welcombe's driveway to whisk us silently away to Coventry railway station.

From there we First Classed it down to London Euston. Chris de Fraga (also an Anglophile) left us to do some important shopping for English tailoring, and Peter and I spent the night at The Ritz Hotel in Piccadilly.


The following morning as I set out for a walk dressed in slacks and a sweater, the doorman stopped me and suggested that despite the clear blue sky, the weather had turned to much more like winter, and the temperature was -2C. Grateful for the advice I re-dressed and sauntered off along Piccadilly, stopping to take the definitive winter photograph of a drinking fountain with ice in the bowl.

When we returned to Australia I asked my two fellow travellers their opinions of the Series III, to which they hastily responded that all the changes were not only worthwhile, but significantly improved on the car which had taken the automotive world by storm in 1968. 

Then followed their reports in WHEELS and THE AGE, which confirmed it had been a very successful trip. The following October we received the first Series III shipment, which sold out in just two months!

That was the first of many wonderful international media events I was fortunate to attend and host over the next 30+ years, and meeting many of my heroes among the world’s top level automotive journalists.


PS: Oh, and more to the white, red and yellow paint story. When Leyland Australia began to order stock of the new Series III, we were told we could have as many as we wanted, but they would either be white, red or yellow, as the Browns Lane works had been forced to de-commission its paint shop for urgent repairs, so for the first six months those were the only colours available for both the domestic and international markets! Such was life at Jaguar in 1979.



Saturday, June 19, 2021


The Aston Martin V12 Speedster is expensive, impractical, and breaks no new ground in terms of layout, technology, design.

It's a rich person's toy, an automotive frivolity, perhaps even a folly. 

And there's nothing wrong with that.

With few notable exceptions - Model T Ford, VW Beetle, Citroën 2CV, the original Mini, among others - 'the car' has rarely been about rational transport.

The new V12 Speedster alongside Aston Martin's famous DBR 1 from 1957

Under the bonnet is a 515kW version of Aston’s twin-turbo V12. Though the engine develops 18kW less than in the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera, that’s still grunt enough to shove the 1750kg barchetta to 100km/h in about 3.5 seconds, even though using the smaller and lighter DB11 transmission means peak torque is capped at 754Nm rather than the 900Nm the engine pumps out in DBS tune. Top speed is a claimed 300km/h.


The V12 Speedster’s unique platform combines elements of the bonded aluminum structures that underpin the DBS Superleggera and the smaller Vantage. The front subframe and front suspension are from the DBS, the rear of the car is from the Vantage Roadster. The differential is from the DBS, but the eight-speed automatic transaxle transmission is the smaller and lighter unit from the DB11.


The mix-and-match hardware is the result of the desire to package Aston Martin’s 5.2-litre 12-cylinder engine in a Vantage-sized car. Aston designers admit it would have been easier to base the Speedster on the DBS, but that wouldn’t have given the car the right proportions. 


And yes, even without a windscreen the V12 Speedster is road legal. Well, it is in most markets apart from the US, where a windscreen is needed to make America’s oversized airbags work as they should – to protect occupants who don’t wear seatbelts.

The tiny aero screens on this prototype Speedster are accessories sold separately by Aston Martin dealers.

Aston couldn’t put anything that even remotely looked like a windscreen there without invoking a swathe of certification rules and regulations.


The Aston Martin V12 Speedster celebrates irrationality. And driven at eight-tenths, it's oddly endearing.

Not the least because few cars give you the IMAX view down the road this thing does.

Angus MacKenzie


Thursday, June 17, 2021


About a squillion years ago (it could even be longer, such is the nature of enduring friendships), I was introduced to a young automotive writer named Angus MacKenzie. He was bright, inquisitive, and had that rare talent of persisting to ask difficult questions without losing his cool, or, annoying the interviewee. 


I remember thinking, if he drives as well as he thinks, then Angus has a great future ahead of him, and that portent turned out to be true in every sense. We got along famously, and here we are in 2021, still the best of friends.


We started our friendship as fellow automotive writers, but then I entered the world of automotive public relations, and I had the pleasure of hosting Angus in some of the world’s most exotic locations, at new model launches with some pretty flash cars.


Here’s Angus’s view on why he took to automotive journalism like a duck to water….


I got my driver’s license exactly three months after my 16th birthday in a Series II Land Rover, ex-Australian Army with no synchro on first or second and about a million miles on the clock. “Pass your test in that,” said Dad, “and you’ll be able to drive anything.” He was right. Nearly four decades later I’ve driven everything from a Bugatti Veyron to a Volvo 18-wheeler, on roads and tracks all over the world.

Very few people get the opportunity to parlay their passion into a career. I’m one of those fortunate few. I started editing my local car club magazine, partly because no-one else would do it, and partly because I’d sold my rally car to get the deposit for my first house, and wanted to stay involved in the sport.


Then one day someone handed me a free local sports paper and said they might want car stuff in it. I rang the editor and to my surprise she said yes. There was no pay, but I did get press passes, which meant I got into the races for free. And meet real automotive journalists in the pressroom. And watch and learn.

It’s been a helluva ride ever since. I’ve written about everything from Formula 1 to Sprint Car racing; from new cars and trucks to wild street machines and multi-million dollar classics; from global industry trends to secondhand car dealers.

I’ve done automotive TV shows and radio shows, and helped create automotive websites, iMags and mobile apps. I’ve been the editor-in-chief of leading automotive media brands in Australia, Great Britain, and the United States. And I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

The longer I’m in this business the more astonished I am these fiendishly complicated devices we call automobiles get made at all, and how accomplished they have become at doing what they’re designed to do. I believe all new cars should be great, and I’m disappointed when they’re not. Over the years I’ve come to realize cars are the result of a complex interaction of people, politics and process, which is why they’re all different. And why they continue to fascinate me.


One of the cars which fascinated Angus was an Aston Martin concept designed by Miles Nurnberger and Sam Holgate.

Aston Martin's Chief Creative Officer, Marek Reichman debuting the CC at Goodwood

It was revealed in May 2013 at the ADAC Zurich 24 Hours of Nürburgring race, to celebrate Aston Martin’s centenary.

The CC Concept had a production run of TWO. Both cars were sold to private buyers, carrying one million pound pricetags – so he never got to drive it.

However, it’s amazing how life, times and circumstances change, and in the following post I’m honoured to welcome Angus MacKenzie to DRIVING & LIFE, and one of those serendipitous moments he talked about.

John Crawford