The Sunday Telegraph

How ‘Jag man’ could hit the road once more

Luxury marque JLR hoping to lure a fresh generation of drivers with a £100k statement car, reports Matt Oliver


When the Jaguar E-type was unveiled in the early 1960s, even Enzo Ferrari conceded the sleek coupé was “the most beautiful car in the world”.

The groundbrea­king design has long been beloved by petrolhead­s, with George Best, Peter Sellers and George Harrison among the model’s many famous owners.

Upon seeing the E-type for the first time, Frank Sinatra is said to have exclaimed: “I want that car, and I want it now.” This was an era when a Jaguar car set pulses racing. The motors had allure and class, with perhaps a whiff of danger. A “Jaaag” was a “roguish” car, Jeremy Clarkson once declared.

It gave rise to the “Jag man”. Car magazine summed him up thus: “Jag man was typically in his late 40s and a bit of a lady-killer in his time. A little dodgy in his younger days, he’d subsequent­ly gone legit and prospered. A self-made man made good, if not really the sort of bloke you’d really want to mess with.”

Jag man today is something of an endangered species. The most famous recent example is John Prescott, the former deputy prime minister, who was nicknamed “Two Jags” for owning an XJ6 alongside his ministeria­l XJ8.

Nor has Jaguar caused much of a stir with its more recent models. Despite being adopted by the future King when it first launched in 2018, the company recently announced that its first all-electric SUV, the I-Pace, was to be discontinu­ed early after failing to capture attention.

Now, the British marque is hoping to lure a fresh generation of Jag men with a new statement car. A four-door grand tourer (GT), scheduled to be unveiled later this year, will be the first in a new all-electric family of vehicles aimed at wealthier customers than its current range. It will sell for upwards of £100,000, have a 430-mile range and can be almost fully charged in around 15 minutes, according to insiders.

That compares with a current price range of £33,000 to £70,000 for the brand’s existing range. The Jaguar XE is at the lowest end and the grand tourer F-type at the top.

The shift upmarket will put Jaguar’s new vehicle in competitio­n with the likes of the Mercedes S-class, which retails from around £93,000, and the BMW 7 series, which starts at around £105,000. Crucially, the new car will also look striking, promises Rawdon Glover, the brand’s managing director.

“There’s an expression our founder, William Lyons, used: Jaguar is at its very best when it’s a copy of nothing, when it doesn’t follow the pack. The intention, absolutely, is to take Jaguar back to its heyday.”

Bosses hope the new GT will provoke the same response from passers-by as the E-type and other iconic models, such as the Mark 2 driven by Inspector Morse or Steve McQueen’s XKSS “green rat”.

Glover says: “If you think about the reaction the world gave the E-type back in 1961, people hadn’t seen a car like that before. That’s the bar that we set ourselves. Our new range of vehicles needs to have a similar sort of level of jaw-dropping impact, so when people see them they actually go, ‘Wow, that is like nothing else’.”

Though the GT’s design remains shrouded in secrecy ahead of a formal unveiling later this year, executives are talking up expectatio­ns.

Adrian Mardell, chief executive of parent company Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), describes the new car as “drop-dead gorgeous”.

He adds: “I’m biased, but they are beautiful, beautiful vehicles.”

Glover remains tight-lipped on the details but says the car will have a long bonnet and an interior “akin to luxury furniture” with “the feel of a boat”. Computer screens will have only a minimal presence. “Our vehicles are really all about exuberant proportion­s. They’re all about having really, really impactful designs that are going to stand out from the rest of the vehicles on the road,” Glover says.

This radical shift has not just come from a yearning desire to go back to making avant-garde cars. The transition to electric vehicles is putting pressure on the company to charge higher prices. For that, they need a special product. Jaguar produced about 67,000 cars in the year to the end of

March and is thought to be investing around £2bn in the reinventio­n of the brand, out of a total of £15bn being spent on the electrific­ation of the wider JLR portfolio. Based on those numbers, and the higher cost today of producing EVs compared with combustion engine cars, the company will need to sell at a higher price point just to make its sums add up, one automotive analyst points out.

Compared with the current top end of its range, particular­ly after recent levels of inflation, £100,000 won’t be too much of a leap for Jaguar’s existing customers. But “to get people to that emotional £100,000 price point, you need a bit of a halo,” the analyst adds.

“Mercedes has the EQS [saloon] and [performanc­e brand] AMG – you need that sort of GT range that goes up to £200,000.

“There has to be a feeling that the customer can work their way up and they are part of an exclusive club.”

Jaguar’s push upmarket is part of a broader effort by JLR to make all its motors more luxurious, thus commanding a higher price.

JLR has already successful­ly taken the Range Rover brand into higher price ranges in recent years.

However, Jaguar is not a “class defining” brand like its sister marque, the analyst argues.

Equally as important as performanc­e will be creating a sense that Jaguar’s relationsh­ip with its customers doesn’t just end when they drive away from the showroom, both through continuous upgrades, “over the air” software changes and ownership networks and events.

“You have to ask yourself, what does the brand stand for and what makes it worth that premium price point?” the analyst says. “Jaguar has a history of decent products but does not yet have that allure that makes you splash out on a £100,000 car that will probably, in reality, do what a £50,000 Chinese car can do.”

Glover agrees: “Customers need to feel they are joining a community.

People today look for brands that they feel they share principles with. You need to feel like you’re not just purchasing a type of mobility – you’re buying into something bigger.”

The average selling price of a Jag today is £45,000-£50,000. To raise that average “we have to change things”, Glover admits. “We’ll be completely changing how we position the brand, what the look and feel is – it will be a lot more exuberant than we are today.”

Brand, design, performanc­e – all are well and good but Jaguar will also have to overcome the aversion of many petrolhead­s to the quiet, more subdued nature of EVs.

Lawrence Stroll, the billionair­e owner of Aston Martin, believes most luxury vehicle owners still crave the smell and sound of combustion cars.

If Jaguar fans can’t stomach going electric yet but are yearning for the heyday, they can buy a reproducti­on of the classic E-type for £295,000 each.

However, Glover is confident that fans old and new will be persuaded by the brand’s latest incarnatio­n.

“This will be the most powerful Jaguar we’ve ever produced,” he adds. “And the electric powertrain gives you a completely different propositio­n in terms of the ride, the comfort, the quietness.

“We’re confident we’ve got the right propositio­n.”

After a spell in the garage, Jag man may soon be on the road again.

‘You need to feel like you’re not just purchasing a type of mobility – you’re buying into something bigger’

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