Jaguar Land Rover is reported to be planning to delay the launch of an all-new electric model due to the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions on spending.
The Coventry car maker was hoping to start building an all-new electric Jaguar XJ saloon at Castle Bromwich early next year.
However reports in the Sunday Times suggest that is now being put back until October 2021.
Production of Jaguar’s flagship saloon, the last generation XJ, ended in Castle Bromwich in July last year.
However Jaguar said it was a temporary halt for this iconic vehicle with a successor following which would be all-electric.
The new electric XJ represents a huge investment in the Castle Bromwich plant by Jaguar Land Rover and the factory is being reconfigured to start electric vehicle production.
The investment would also see other electric models produced in the wake of the new XJ, including a new SUV, which is thought to be the Jaguar J-Pace.
Jaguar Land Rover has remained tight-lipped on putting its Castle Bromwich plans back but like all car makers is having to reconfigure its entire modus operandi due to coronavirus and the effect it has had on car sales globally
CoventryLive spoke to automotive expert Dr Charles Tennant about the latest reports regarding Jaguar.
Mr Tennant is the former chief engineer at Land Rover. He has also held senior roles at Tata Technologies and WMG at the University of Warwick.
He said: “In July 2019 Jaguar Land Rover announced to much fanfare £1 billion of investment to build a range of electric cars at its Castle Bromwich factory in Birmingham.
“The unions and workforce of 2,700 at the plant were understandably delighted especially after job losses of 6,000 in recent years.
“Now a year on and Castle Bromwich remains idle with its workforce on furlough, due to slumping sales of their Jaguar XE and XF saloon cars leaving dealers with stockpiles of cars.”
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Mr Tennant said Jaguar had problems enough before the coronavirus pandemic.
“Whilst coronavirus has obviously been a bitter blow sales of Jaguar cars were already in decline, with only the award winning electric I-Pace showing sales growth last year,” he said.
“Now Jaguar has allegedly postponed its new flagship all electric XJ vehicle until October 2021 with the company saying it is cutting all non-essential spending, and will prioritise its most lucrative vehicles such as the new Defender and Range Rovers from the Land Rover stable.
“Jaguar has also stated that the XJ has been their flagship model for 50 years, and despite growing rumours that they may stop building their declining saloons insist that this is a delay only, and engineers will continue to work on the product development aspects.
“But it still sounds very ominous to me, and I do worry about the fortunes of the Jaguar brand moving forward.”
Mr Tennant, who recently shared his thoughts with CoventryLive on what the future might hold for Jaguar, said cost-cutting was understandable in the current climate.
He said: “As with all car manufacturers JLR is burning through cash at an alarming rate – some analysts estimating as much as £1 billion per month – so slashing costs is understandable.
“Also a new CEO is about to be announced so maybe it will all change again after yet another strategic review in the autumn.
“Meanwhile the company is still in talks with the UK Government to obtain much needed bailout cash from a fund known as Project Birch.”
Mr Tennant also believes Jaguar Land Rover needs to step-up quickly as regards electrification and improving Jaguar’s position in the crucial US market.
He said: “Whilst Jaguar Land Rover needs to get back to its vehicle electrification plans it has had a torrid time in the crucial American market with the electric Jaguar I-Pace selling only 2,594 last year – half of what Audi achieved with their e-Tron and way behind the Tesla Model X at 16,000 vehicles.
“The power of the Tesla brand with its supercharger network are major selling points, meanwhile the competition is also heating up with the Mustang Mach-E, Tesla Model Y and VW ID. Four electric vehicles all going head-to-head this year.
“So if and when the Jaguar XJ and later J-Pace are launched they will have to be really stunning vehicles with inherent reliability and excellent service back-up if they are to succeed.”