Exclusive: All you need to know about Jaguar's new XF (continued)
12 December 2007
There has never been a more important car in the history of Jaguar than the new XF. UK managing director Geoff Cousins talked Paul Barker around the saloon that could make or break a company
How vital is the corporate market?
Like all manufacturers we need a good balance between corporate and retail. We're not going to go to the corporate market with a discount to get the car off to a flying start; we're going to stand on the styling and package.
Given our premium niche strategy [Jaguar is targeting lower volumes but higher margins], it makes sense that smaller fleets and local entrepreneurs are the target for us.
Has the prospective sale of Jaguar and Land Rover affected the build-up to the XF?
We had the initial knock-back of the sale of the company being announced, but PR for this vehicle has overridden that. We decided that when the 28 August embargo lifted, the dealers would have the pricing, spec, RVs, and before the car's debut at the Frankfurt motor show we had two people from each dealership trained so they would be able to talk to customers. We have 1500 firm orders with deposits before people had seen or touched the car.
When the potential sale was first announced we had some customers, including fleet customers, hold off, and dealers were nervous about change and uncertainty. After about four or five weeks it settled down and we've taken the internal view that we've got to do our day job. Whoever buys Jaguar and Land Rover will want the best job possible. I don't think it's stopped us at all, the XF good news has overshadowed it.
What are your sales aspirations?
We don't give out sales targets but it's got to be more than the S-type is doing now [which will be below 4500 this year]. In the first year of S-type we did 10,000-11,000. It will be good but a sensible number, but we won't be shooting for 20% market share or anything like that.
Which models will be most popular?
The 2.7 diesel will be the dominant engine, and I think the supercharged car will do well, particularly in the first year; the XKR mix is very strong. But the 2.7 will be the mainstay - it's a proven engine with good mpg. There's big potential for this car in the corporate market. We're expecting 35-50% of sales to be corporate. If it's around 50% we'll be comfortable.
Will the entry Luxury trim be most popular?
The kit is generous to start with, so we're confident with the configuring and pricing of the base vehicle. There will be some step up but Luxury will be most popular. We haven't done a specific corporate spec, but if we had it would include Bluetooth, satnav, leather and auto - so it would be this.
Who will you take buyers from?
The marketplace has changed a bit - BMW has been top dog for a long time and Audi has come on strong in the last three or four years. With any of the Germanic brands, you have to give them a run for their money, and I think we can. With this car at £33,900 in the D/E segment [executive], we could conceivably get customers from the top of the C/D segment [upper medium] or the bottom of the F [luxury] segment.
I'm not fussed who we take sales off. A £33,000 car with this kit and best-in-class RVs - why wouldn't you consider it unless you're wedded to a brand? Of course, I'm aware there are no bad cars now - we have to be a little bit special.
What about a smaller diesel in the XF, given BMW and Audi's success with the 520d and A6 2.0 TDI?
We'll look at trends and future investment plans. Smaller diesels are here to stay and with us starting at £33,000, half of the 5-series saloon and 65% of the A6 saloon are below that. We don't want to get into a volume race in that segment. No-one can ignore trends but I don't see it as an issue for this car in the first two years of its life. We're convinced there's a big enough market for us at this price point but time will tell.
Will there be other bodystyles?
This [the saloon] is our product plan at the moment. As a market leader I'd like as many offerings as I can get. We're constantly reviewing our plans and where something makes sense I'm sure we'll do it.
What excites you most about the XF?
It's our ability to say our car is as good as anybody's. It's a good, fast car, which is what Jaguar is about.