2009 Jaguar XF Supercharged: Sleek Cat, Deadly Growl

Tim Andrew

Question & Answer:
Michael O'Driscoll

Managing Director, Jaguar Cars

What makes a Jag a Jag?
There are clichéd views of Jaguar born of the retro designs that populated the '80s and the '90s. To somebody who's fastened on that period in time, a Jaguar is a certain design that worked in a period in time. But Bill Lyons never in his entire tenure copied a previous car. Cars evolved, cars developed, and then the guillotine came down and he moved in an entirely new direction. That has been forgotten. Our halcyon days I guess were the '60s, with the E-type, the XJ, the Mark II. What a collection of cars! But each was born of new thinking.

Is the sale affecting you?
The sale process was distracting for a couple of months in the early stages. But we're past that. Ford is going to make a decision on the sale of the company. Our job is to run the business and to deliver results. Right now, we are totally focused on the XF launch - not worried about what Ford is going to do - because they're going to sell the company to whomever they're going to sell it to. The best thing I can do is run this company as well as I can. And if we do a really good job, we're going to end up in good hands.

What do you owe Jaguar?
To put Jag back on the map, to rebuild this business, no matter who buys it. We've got to make people proud again to work at Jaguar, to be driving Jaguars, and we'll do it.

When does Jag come from the darkness?
Storm clouds are often darkest outside the company when inside, you've seen that shaft of light and realize you're making progress. You know you've cracked it, you know you've got it figured out, you know you're back on track. There are still a lot of doubts out there, because you just haven't been able to demonstrate it. A lot of us who are involved with rebuilding this company have got that sense of confidence since we started work on the XF and realized what we had. The XK was the start, but externally, it only really starts to take off with the launch of the XF.

Tata Bags Jaguar

Like Ford, Tata Motors is a publicly held company that's still family-controlled. It's a subsidiary of the $30 billion Tata Group, one of India's largest industrial conglomerates, with a diverse portfolio of businesses from steel companies to luxury hotels. Its global brands include Tetley Tea, Eight O'Clock Coffee, and New York's Pierre Hotel.

The Mumbai-based group is run by seventy-year-old Ratan Tata, an American-educated, fifth-generation scion who has held the reins at the 140-year-old firm since 1991. He has an architecture degree from Cornell and is a graduate of Harvard's Advanced Management Program.

Founded in 1945 as TELCO (Tata Locomotive and Engineering Company), Tata Motors is India's largest indigenous automaker, as well as the country's largest manufacturer of trucks, buses, and commercial vehicles. It launched the Indica, the first modern small car designed in India, ten years ago, and has since added companion models called the Indigo and the Marina. It also markets a range of clunky SUVs with names such as Sumo and Safari.

Tata has previously danced with several global automotive partners, including Mercedes-Benz and MG Rover. It currently has a tie-up with Fiat in India and Argentina and is developing a game-changing "people's car" designed to sell in emerging markets for just over $2500.

Outside of the obvious connection between the two family-controlled automakers, Ford's management might be impressed by Tata's deep financial resources, its extensive global holdings, and the personal charisma of chairman Ratan Tata. The Tata Group has successfully acquired and managed a number of well-known international brands. Unlike rival bidder Mahindra, Tata Motors is listed on the NYSE, and its finances are relatively transparent. Plus, Ford clearly prefers the idea of selling to a so-called strategic investor - a company already in the auto business - rather than a private-equity firm like One Equity Partners, another suitor.

It's uncertain just how Ratan Tata plans to integrate Jaguar and Land Rover into Tata's portfolio or leverage their platforms and technical resources - or if he intends to keep them totally separate from the Tata brand and product range. The details of his strategy should be revealed shortly.

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