Global Brand Director, Jaguar Cars
Newly appointed at Jaguar, British native Hallmark is an auto industry veteran, with lengthy stints at Porsche U.K. and other outposts of the Volkswagen Group, including head of Bentley marketing and director of the VW brand in Asia. Most recently, Hallmark worked for Saab during its transition from GM ownership.
“What Jaguar’s product range will look like, we can’t say just yet. The product planning has already gone through a couple of loops. Part of the reason that I’m here is that the plans are exciting and there is a serious commitment [from owner Tata]. This year we will definitely be communicating some of those decisions about some of those specific models.
“As we’ve seen over the past two years, when the car market goes south, light commercial vehicles go first, and sports cars go straight after. And the altitude of the drop is severe. In the early 90s, Porsche’s revenue dropped 63 percent in a nine-month period. The company was nearly bankrupt. The whole reason for product diversification was to balance the company during the economic cycle so you didn’t only rely on high-performance, high-speed sports cars.
“Porsche’s business model was genius. The first Boxster shared 60 percent of its parts with the 911. You could change the bonnet, wings, headlights, doors, and nobody saw it. With the first Cayenne, you could unbolt all four doors and fit them on a VW Touareg, because they’re exactly the same doors. So can you imagine, another 60 percent carryover with a volume maker’s SUV that nobody noticed. It saved the company.
“The VW Group has this so-called toolbox. They have four basic body models to cover every segment, and they can mount north-south engines; east-west engines; do two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive; in different lengths, different widths, different heights. Every brand uses this same architecture, sharing all the really costly crash-sensitive, emissions-sensitive parts; and they can build hundreds of variants from this toolbox of about twenty-seven kits. But we don’t need that many. And we can’t afford that many. And each Jaguar can still look totally different. Because the way you shape the bodywork doesn’t cost a lot more money. It’s actually all the stuff you can’t see that costs the real bucks.
“We cannot afford, and neither can BMW, just for the record, to engineer every engine we need on our own, and make it pay. Why? Because the Volkswagen Group has cracked the modular system. Which is why we, and others, will have to, and will be happy to, share technologies. For us, it gives us the opportunity to share with like-minded brands rather than volume brands. Because we’re no longer part of a big global industrial company, we’re not a threat to anybody.
“The good news is, Jaguar is an incumbent premium brand. People know; they don’t question its premium-ness. They may question whether we have the latest technologies. They may question the reliability, maybe. But nobody questions the position of the brand. Audi is not yet quite seen as a prestige brand. It’s moving, and it’s getting there really quickly, but it’s not there [despite having a full model range]. We’ve got the opposite problem: We’ve got to fill in the gaps from a product image point-of-view, and that’s gonna take a couple of years. Lexus here [in the U.S.] is a phenomenon. But it didn’t happen anywhere else. They launched Lexus about three years ago in Japan, but it hasn’t worked. Here, it was just tremendous what they achieved; it’s a real case study.
“Not many 35-year-olds can afford a long-wheelbase XJ. So we’ve got to bring in cars that are more affordable to younger buyers, but believe me we are not looking at the lowest-price BMW 3-series or Audi A4. We’ll have premium products at the very top of each segment we operate in.
“I think the expectation of big volume globally [for Jaguar] will be [via a] sedan [rather than a crossover or SUV]. In the U.S. market as well as China, India, Russia, and big parts of Europe, sedans are number one. Crossovers are fast growing, and we’ve had a discussion about ‘what if’ regarding an SUV. Of course we could do one. Crossover SUVs are not off limits to Jaguar [despite partner Land Rover]. But there are no decisions yet.
“From an image point of view, I think [our next car should be] a small sports car. But that wouldn’t give us volume. So, from a volume point of view, we need a smaller sedan or lifestyle car. But if we can make sports cars affordable enough, they will be our breakthrough in bringing that younger target group towards us.”
As told to Joe DeMatio