Jag's touch of Ford: Components likely to be shared in new generation of cars

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The Independent Online
LOOK under the bodywork of the next generation of luxury Jaguar cars and you may find something more mundane.

The new small Jaguar, which should be given the go- ahead within the next 18 months, is likely to share its principal components with the next generation of Ford Granadas.

Jim Padilla, Jaguar's executive director of manufacturing and engineering, said that it made sense for the cars to share platforms - the modern equivalent of a chassis, with engine and gearbox - but to fit a typically Jaguar body and interior.

He confirmed that the new Jaguar - which will compete with the BMW 5-series and is code-named X200 - will not necessarily be built in Britain. 'We are looking at all the options,' he said. 'We have not even definitely decided to go ahead with the car yet.'

Mr Padilla, who is shortly to return to the US to take overall charge of Ford's luxury cars, including Jaguar, said that the volume of the new car, likely to be about 50,000 a year, would not justify a completely separate platform. It is common for cars that look quite different to share platforms, though Ford is aware of the danger of losing Jaguar's aura of exclusivity.

Jaguar's Brown's Lane plant in Coventry, which is making the revamped XJ6 that will be launched next month, has been working hard to shake off its image for poor quality and industrial unrest. A new line and better working practices have more than doubled the factory's productivity since 1991, while cutting the number of faults by 80 per cent.

This, Mr Padilla said, has increased the plant's chance of building the new car, though he said a decision will be made on hard commercial lines. It is possible the new Jaguar will be built in two factories, one in the US and one in Europe. Market research shows that in some markets, such as the US, there is no consumer preference for Jaguars to be built in Britain, while in Germany customers would actively prefer they were not British.

The Ford influence is already clear in the new XJ6, even though all assembly is done at Brown's Lane. Body panels are stamped at Ford's Halewood factory on Merseyside, and the two companies are increasingly co-operating on components. 'We don't want to start pulling bits out of Ford's parts bin,' an engineer said. 'But we are increasingly using its technology and suppliers.'

Ford will also build a new Jaguar-designed V8 engine at its Bridgend plant: this will first be used in the X100 - a replacement for the XJ-S sports car to be launched in two years.

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