“Incredibly desirable” Jaguar electric car won’t get cab-forward design [Update]

Update: ‘Prototype’ sub-section added to ‘Proposed Jaguar electric car will ride on the ‘Panthera’ platform’ section and ‘Jaguar pauses new launches’ and ‘Sales dip’ sections updated.

Jaguar Land Rover’s EV blitz under the Reimagine strategy could include the launch of an “incredibly desirable” Jaguar electric crossover, Gerry McGovern, the company’s Chief Creative Officer, had hinted in February 2021. While the Jaguar J-Pace may have been axed, a future Jaguar electric car model that promises to be better seems to have appeared in its place.

Clear distinction between the brands

There will be a clear distinction between Jaguar and Land Rover brands in the future. However, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be Jaguar crossovers. The I-Pace has shown some potential and moving forward, there could be more such low-slung, unconventional crossover models from the Jaguar brand.

X Concept side with long bonnet
Jaguar electric cars will not follow the trend of short bonnets as it diminishes the exuberance of the design, as per McGovern, who spoke to Autocar UK. Pictured is the Genesis X concept, a similar example. Image: Hyundai Motor Group

Jaguar Land Rover has heightened the emphasis on the design aspect since Thierry Bollore joined the company as its CEO in 2020. McGovern was promoted to be a part of the Board of Management (as the Chief Creative Officer) in February 2021 so that design can be an integral part of key decisions at the top-most level. “Exceptional desirability” is how JLR should differentiate itself from its competitors in Bollore’s view, McGovern told Autocar UK magazine in an interview in 2021. Obviously, the design aspect would be central to “exceptional desirability” for a luxury car.

No cab-forward designs

Further in the interview, McGovern hinted that the “incredibly desirable” Jaguar crossover and other future Jaguars would not feature a cab-forward design that is becoming typical of bespoke EVs. He suggested that keeping the bonnet long in a signature Jaguar style is more important than freeing up some extra space in the cabin.

Jaguar Panthera platform
The bespoke ‘Panthera’ platform will underpin all future Jaguar EVs, one that is developed in-house. Image Source: Jaguar Land Rover

During the Q&A session on its Investor Day in 2021 (February 26, 2021), an analyst asked Jaguar Land Rover management if we will still see Jaguar crossovers when the new strategy takes effect. Bollore suggested that the company is open to all enticing ideas McGovern and his team pitches. “We have given the freedom to Gerry and his team to propose to us extraordinary vehicles,” Bollore said. Adding to Bollore, McGovern remarked:

It’s fantastic being a designer in this company because you know there’s so much freedom, but yeah the SUV is a generic term. And I think one of the opportunities, as Thierry said (is) we’re looking at different. You know, it could be a four-door coupe sedan, it could be some sort of SUV-derived, incredibly desirable product. It might be that we create a niche category that doesn’t exist. We’ve done that before at Land Rover (with the Range Rover Evoque), so why can’t we do it at Jaguar? So, that’s the beauty of the process we are going through at the moment. So, watch this space.

Gerry McGovern, Chief Creative Officer, Jaguar Land Rover, in Feb 2021

By the mid-decade, JLR aims to make Jaguar an EV-only brand. To execute the Reimagine strategy, JLR will invest £2.5 billion (approx. $3.0 billion) annually.

Jaguar is reinventing itself with a new strategy focused on emotional and aspirational models that stand out from the generic SUVs on the market. Going back to the drawing board, Jaguar is committed to creating truly unique cars that will make a bold statement. With this new direction, it promises to deliver unforgettable designs.

Proposed Jaguar electric car will ride on the ‘Panthera’ platform

Jaguar Land Rover will develop a new platform for 100% electrification of the Jaguar brand. During parent company Tata Motors’ Q3 FY22 earnings conference call on January 31, 2022, Adrian Mardell, CFO, Jaguar Land Rover, slipped in its name – Panthera. The Panthera platform will underpin all the future Jaguar electric car launches.

We were capitalizing more than a GBP 100 million less in the quarter (Q3 FY22) than we were last year (Q3 FY21) and that’s the difference between being the high point of the cycle and the low point of the cycle as those engineers come up (with) our MLA high platform and move on to other platforms EMA, which we’ve talked about, of course, as a part of Reimagine, and Panthera or Jaguar electrification.

Adrian Mardell, CFO, Jaguar Land Rover (Tata Motors Q3 FY22 earnings conference call on January 31, 2022)

As the call continued, Bollore explained that developing its own platform for future Jaguar EVs made sense. “We have put the priority of the unique proportion of the car,” he said. “That’s the reason why, for the moment, we do it by ourselves,” he added.

Bollore had said in 2021 that the company will decide about the future Jaguar EV platform based on the design it wants, not the other way around (which some automakers do to save costs). Design should be the distinguishing aspect and the top USP of future Jaguar electric car models.

It’s a matter of scale, it’s a matter of speed to go to market. And that’s the reason why we are opening this possibility to partner. It’s a design-led process that we have launched, the top priority is to make it such that Gerry (McGovern) and his team can propose to us the most dramatic designs that we expect to have, and that we need of course, and we’re confident of having, thanks to intense work that is happening at the moment in design.

We have not yet seen and chosen those designs and as such I want to say that the choice of the platform has to respect the proportions of the design which are going to be proposed to us. It’s quite a unique process to a certain extent that we are performing, that’s why we are open to as well to partnership and we are discussing with a selection of actors, but we remain extremely confident that if needed we will do it internally.

Thierry Bollore, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, in February 2021

In 2021, McGovern said that Jaguar would develop its own platform if it wasn’t satisfied with the options on the market. Now, Jaguar has followed through on that statement:

Thierry understands very well what the prerequisites of great design are, and it begins with volume and proportions, and clearly a Jaguar will have quite significantly different volume and proportions from our Land Rover products. Therefore we need to look at what the opportunities out there are in terms of architectures, that we could use or refine to give us a type of stunning, jaw-dropping Jaguars I’m talking about. It may be that we actually we develop a platform internally to deliver, but as Thierry said, it has to be design-led because there is no point to do this until these products are drop-dead gorgeous.

Gerry McGovern, Chief Creative Officer, Jaguar Land Rover, in February 2021

Magna’s involvement

In February 2022, it emerged that the company could be partnering with Magna International for the development of the Panthera platform. Magna International is the contract vehicle manufacturer that builds the Jaguar I-Pace in Graz, Austria. JLR had posted an ad on LinkedIn (via Automotive News Europe) which said that employees will get to be involved in a platform project and “work closely with JLR, Jaguar, and Magna” on an “outsourced engineering service relationship.”

Both JLR and Magna avoided confirming or denying the rumor. However, a Magna spokesperson said that the company did not develop the I-Pace and that it simply manufactures the EV. Magna has a licensable platform for EVs, though, which is used by the Fisker Ocean SUV. JLR has collaborated with the BMW Group for developing Electric Drive Units (EDUs), but with the Jaguar brand striving for a unique design identity among luxury vehicles, a bespoke platform would be a non-negotiable.

Prototype testing

Nick Collins, Executive Director, Vehicle Programmes, Jaguar Land Rover, has told Auto Express that the first prototypes of the new Jaguar electric cars based on a dedicated platform will enter road testing within two months (as reported on June 15, 2022). Jaguar’s future has been shrouded in silence for a year, but according to Collins, work is progressing at the highest speed ever seen at JLR.

JLR has finalized what it wants the Jaguar brand to represent in the electric era. Future Jaguar models will respect and (thus remind by characteristics) of the brand’s past, but they won’t be bound by it, as seen in the case of Land Rover’s Defender, Collins said. Jaguar staff is working in a different part of the company’s Gaydon product creation center so that it can behave, think, and live differently, ultimately coming up with unique ideas for future Jaguars.

Jaguar pauses new launches

Collins has said that the first all-new Jaguar electric vehicles will debut by the end of 2024 and go on sale in 2025. A report from Le Monde had said on November 30, 2021, that Jaguar is entering a hibernation phase until 2025 for all-new launches. While existing cars should continue receiving refreshments and new trims, there’ll be no new models. As the luxury market becomes increasingly competitive, it is not advisable to take a break from releasing new products. You risk being forgotten by not releasing new products for years on end.

Every new Jaguar launch after the I-Pace in 2018 was a refresh of an existing car, and launches such as the J-Pace and the next-gen XJ were canceled due to brand repositioning under the Reimagine strategy. The direct transition from ICE models to 100% EVs is exciting, but it could be detrimental to the Jaguar’s sales if it’s not managed properly. The German brands have always been ahead in sales, and recently Genesis has overtaken Jaguar.

Sales dip

In 2021, Jaguar saw its year-over-year sales decline by 15.8% to 86,270 units (2020: 102,494 units). Its I-Pace particularly took a severe hit last year, as per data published on InsideEVs.com. Sales significantly dropped (by 39%) from 16,457 in 2020 to just 9,970 units, and cumulatively, just over 50,000 I-Paces have been sold globally since the launch in 2018.

Jaguar sales continued declining in Q1 2022. JLR sold 14,574 Jaguars between January and March 2022, 37.9% lower than in Q1 2021. FY2022 (April 2021 – March 2022) sales figure of the Jaguar brand was 77,381 units, 20.8% lower than in FY2021 (April 2020 – March 2021).

Featured Image Source: Jaguar Land Rover