JAGUAR Land Rover is experiencing a renaissance. The British company, owned by India’s Tata, is flying high with healthy sales and new market shares. The success is all down to new, thoroughly thought-out products that have replaced the dated ones.
“We are hugely ambitious at the moment in case you hadn’t noticed,” grins director of Jaguar design Ian Callum. “There is huge confidence in the two brands,” he continues referring to the Jaguar and Land Rover marques.
Callum is unlike most other car designers in that he is accessible and speaks very directly, almost earnestly, to journalists. “However, there is one thing climbing the hill, another staying on top. We reinvented the brand and now we have to grow,” he pauses, choosing his words carefully: “Sustaining the brand is a big job; it takes a lot of soul searching. The conclusion I’ve come to is that we’re in a good place and need to evolve now, and most importantly stay consistent.”
Jaguar is understood in the UK – historically the marque has a strong presence. The challenge is to familiarise the brand around the world, where this isn’t the case. Even in markets like the US, its biggest single market, there isn’t instinctive brand recognition.
Callum says when he drives around Los Angeles or New York people respond positively to the cars, but they don’t make that immediate Jaguar connection, which is something that could be pushed through design.
Staying relevant also helps. Jaguar’s latest product, the F-Type, is a small two-seater sports car and a modern take on the E-Type that for many of us defines the marque. The previous day I was lucky enough to experience the car – it certainly looks, feels, sounds and drives beautifully. Yet today’s world and the next generation of drivers demand a new form of mobility that isn’t just about shiny metal and mega horsepower.
Callum is quick to agree with my observation, but notes that cars like the F-Type are crucial for the brand. “They don’t have to sell in high numbers because it is about a statement.” He agrees, however, that you need to stay on top of future trends – car designers after all are like futurists having to predict trends a good five to 10 years ahead.
“We are very aware that people are downsizing and buying smaller vehicles, and we need to take heed of that and become relevant to a whole new generation of people who didn’t just grow up on saloon and sports cars,” Callum says adding: “we have to create a portfolio to match.”
I suggest that you get beauty in length especially with Jaguar cars, so in this context how would he go about designing a small city car. “Make it substantial; give it elegant presence,” he fires off looking excited. “We’re not doing one though,” he continues quickly. I say I cannot imagine a small Jaguar, to which the designer smiles and replies: “Oh I can. I think it would be an interesting thing to do.”
Callum notes that inside it would have the same wood, metal and real material application that is representative of the Britishness of the brand, but also have fun with it. “A lot of women drive small cars, so how to use it is very important, in a glamorous and practical way,” he notes, not too dissimilar as to how women approach handbags where it is a mix of style and function.
This hypothetical Jaguar city car will also appeal to a certain mind-set – active urbanites for whom connectivity is high on the list. I mention the Volkswagen Up, a brilliant piece of automotive design that stays close to product design. “That car was in my head before it came out,” he says. “It is a very mature piece of design.”
As I prepare to leave, Callum confirms once again that a city car isn’t in the company’s cycle plan before asking me if I feel it would devalue the brand. Not if executed in the right way, I reply. “Thank you! I will quote you on that.”
-Referred from Nargess Shahmanesh Banks.