Why a Jaguar is not a Ford

THE NEW Jaguar XJ6 marks a turning point in the turbulent history of Britain's best-loved car-maker. The first Jaguar in which Ford has had a hand, it will be the last not to use Ford parts: from the late Nineties, models will be developed, at least initially, by Ford and some may even be built by Ford either in the US or on the Continent.

Jaguar today is hardly recognisable from the company Sir John Egan sold in 1990. Far fewer workers now make slightly fewer cars, but they make them much more efficiently. 'Apart from some Soviet factories in the Russian city of Gorky,' Ford's first Jaguar boss, Bill Hayden, told me soon after he replaced Sir John, 'Jaguar's British factory was the worst I'd seen. The labour practices, demarcation lines and general untidiness were unacceptable.'

Despite what Sir John and his PR machine said at the time, Jaguar continued to be a relic of Britain's industrial past. It had many talented engineers, as British car companies always have had, but their engineering was divorced from the manufacturing. Their ideas may have been brilliant, but they were not much good to the consumer if they could not be properly executed.

Sir John's skill was in persuading people to believe in Jaguar. He did improve the cars from the appallingly unreliable products handed to him by British Leyland. But he did not improve them by anything like the extent he implied.

Without him, however, Jaguar would almost certainly have perished. Even Ford men, who inherited the company in a much worse state than they expected (they, too, fell for the PR) admit that history will rate two Jaguar bosses above all others: Sir William Lyons, who founded the company, and Sir John Egan, who saved it.

Ford did not take long to put its own men in charge. What is extraordinary is how they have absorbed the special Jaguar culture. Chairman and chief executive Nick Scheele, a naturalised American but a Briton by birth, joined Jaguar from Ford Mexico as a young man, and says he wants to stay as long as possible in Coventry. 'There's something special about this place,' he said after taking over in 1992. 'Foreign visitors turn up in coaches to look around. That doesn't happen at Dagenham.'

One of Ford's first tasks was to improve the integration of the manufacturing and engineering operations, so that good ideas on paper could become good ideas in production. Engineering and manufacturing operations now have a single director, American Jim Padilla, who the Jaguar engineers say is the real 'father' of the new XJ6.

Mr Padilla is about to return to Ford headquarters in Dearborn, near Detroit, to head Ford's new world luxury and performance car division, which includes Jaguar.

All new Ford-Jaguars will be based on Ford platforms. The first, due to appear at the end of the decade, is likely to be Project X200, a rival for the BMW 5-Series. This car will share a platform with an upcoming new American Ford, and will use a Ford engine block. Though the styling, suspension, cabin and internal engine components will be bespoke Jaguar, many hidden parts, particularly electrical components, are certain to be pure Ford.

'That will make for a cheaper and a more reliable car,' says Mr Scheele. 'I just don't see the problem in using Ford components, as long as they're of sufficient quality and are hidden from view. It's the tangibles - the styling, the cabin, the ride and the performance - that must be pure Jaguar.'

There is no doubt now that Jaguars are better built than ever, and more professionally engineered. The company is healthier than it has been for years. But, like all special cultures taken over by corporate giants, Jaguar is in danger of being neutered, its cars no more than stylish Fords wearing better badges. Ford's challenge is to ensure that the best-loved name in British motoring continues to produce distinctive, slightly quirky, stylish cars that could never be mistaken for a Ford.

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

    £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own