High stakes for new Jaguar and Rover

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TWO of the most important new British cars for years will be launched this week. On Wednesday, Jaguar unveils its new XJ6 saloon: it will be the first new model since Ford bought the company in 1989 and will aim to re-establish Jaguar's position in the luxury market. The next day, the wraps will come off the update for the Range Rover, Rover's flagship and one of the main reasons BMW bought the company.

Both cars represent radical attempts to reinject life into ageing models and to increase competitiveness. Ford has invested pounds 110m and Land Rover pounds 70m in an effort to halve manufacturing costs.

Two-thirds of the components in the Jaguar are being replaced, and a high priority has being given to curing its traditional unreliability. Production next year should be 39,000, against 20,000 in 1992, even though the workforce has been cut from 12,000 to 6,700. Since 1989, Ford has spent pounds 3.5bn on Jaguar, including the pounds 1.6bn purchase price, pounds 1bn in investment and pounds 500m in losses. Analysts say this can be repaid only if this car, as well as a new sports model and smaller saloon that will follow, are successful. Garel Rhys, motor industry professor at Cardiff Business School, says UK production should be 120,000 by 1998, with another 100,000 of the small car built in the US.

The latest Range Rover, which has cost pounds 300m to develop, will also look like its predecessor, but will be totally new. The 24-year-old model has been redesigned to take on the best luxury road cars, while keeping its off-road ability.