The smallest piece of Ford's British-brands puzzle is now in place: Aston Martin is being spun off. But the fates of Jaguar and Land Rover are still uncertain. Ford officials have said that Jaguar and Land Rover are not for sale, but industry watchers aren't so sure. They're skeptical because, unlike Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover are difficult to integrate into an increasingly cost-driven parts and production structure at Ford.
But whether they stay or go, the fates of Jaguar and Land Rover are tied together. They need a synchronized product, assembly, and marketing strategy. But how can you possibly merge--for lack of a better term--two such diverse operations?
In an ideal world, the bond that unites Jaguar and Land Rover would be a modern aluminum spaceframe. Aluminum offers several key advantages: low weight, corrosion resistance, recyclability, a stiff structure, and--most critical--the ability to derive a lot of different shapes and sizes from the same basic matrix. One serious downside is cost: material cost, tooling cost, assembly cost. But if Audi could use an aluminum architecture for the tiny A2 (which never made it to the United States), then surely piece cost cannot be an insurmountable problem.
Here are the details of the aluminum-based future for the two brands, according to some long-range product planners at the Premier Automotive Group.
The strategy for Jaguar has the brand expanding the use of aluminum throughout the range, bolstering its sporting pedigree with a new volume roadster and more potent offerings at the top end, entering the luxury crossover segment, and moving its entry-level car out of direct competition with the Mercedes-Benz C-class/Audi A4/BMW 3-series. It's an ambitious plan, but after decades of red ink, Jaguar obviously needs to take dramatic action.
The XF replaces the S-type early next year, powered by 4.2-liter V-8 and an optional supercharger. The XF-R, with a blown 5.0-liter, appears in 2010. The XF, though, uses a steel body, so under this scenario, it would have a short run before being replaced by a new version with an aluminum spaceframe.
The big XJ already has an aluminum architecture, and an '08 face-lift was just unveiled. In 2010, the car sheds its staid bodywork in favor of a new, more modern design; at the same time, it could switch to all-supercharged (4.2- and 5.0-liter) V-8s.
A Porsche Boxster/BMW Z4 rival has been a Jaguar dream for years (see the 2000 F-type show car, left). That's for good reason--the brand desperately needs a true sports car. It would get one, the XS, an aluminum-bodied two-seater with a Volvo-supplied straight six driving the rear wheels.
The two-plus-two GT evolves its current theme. With Aston Martin leaving, Jaguar is free to launch a muscular variant with as much as 500 hp. Ultimately, though, Jag would also want a front-engine supercar to fill the Aston void.
A proposed crossover--the XX--would be a trimmer Mercedes R-class. Seating is two-plus-two-plus-one (with the fifth seat between and half a row back from the two center chairs). A hideaway two-piece tailgate, like those in GM's station wagons of the early 1970s, also is planned.
R-D6/XCA tentative X-type replacement, the four-seat XC has a truncated rear end, no B-pillars, and rear-hinged back doors, all seen on the 2003 R-D6 concept (above).
For Land Rover, the idea is to keep the Land Rover brand name as an umbrella but use the Range Rover designation exclusively, to emphasize more upmarket aspirations. The plan is for the four new Range Rovers to share the same aluminum architecture, four-wheel-drive hardware, coil and air suspension, and basic drivetrain lineup. Interior quality needs to go to the next level, and full off-road capability--the one fundamental difference between Range Rover and Jaguar--is a must.
To secure its ultrapremium status, the full-size Range Rover grows longer, more expensive, and even more luxurious. The idea is to solidify its claim as a Bentley for the landed gentry.
Range Rover Sport
With the big Range Rover getting bigger, the Range Rover Sport is free to move up half a notch in size and a full notch in content--and, naturally, price.
Range Rover Coupe
A new, sportier, four-seat model could be a two-door (like the Range Stormer concept, left) or a slope-roofed four-door, but with swoopier styling.
Land Rover LR3
Its replacement won't be as tall, heavy, or thirsty. It also will ditch the Land Rover name in favor of Range Rover County.
Land Rover LR2
Although it's only recently been introduced, the LR2's slim profit margins and the new all-Range-Rover strategy would scratch the compact SUV from the company's lineup.
Land Rover Defender
Still sold in the U.K., the ancient, iconic Defender has its fans, but it doesn't have a viable platform on which to base a new version. Look for this old soldier to just fade away.