Jaguar Cars’ marketing successes since the arrival of Sir John Egan in 1980 have funded a new £55-million engineering and research centre which was opened at Whitley in May.
Six miles from the Browns Lane factory, the impressive-looking British Racing Green-and-white complex is built on a 155-acre site which used to be a Chrysler and Peugeot-Talbot production plant.
Jaguar bought the site in 1985, but it has been working out of temporary buildings since the styling centre opened there in January 1987. In the last month, two dozen engine-test cells have been made operational in the £16-million power-train engineering faclity, one of which is equipped with a four-wheel-drive rolling road. There is provision for a test-track, but only for “shakedowns”.
Some 900 engineers and technicians will work there, introducing computer-aided design to the development of components and new models which will include an XJ-S “facelift”, the V12 version of the XJ40 saloon and Project XJ41, the forthcoming F-type sportscar which Egan hopes to have in production by “the early to mid-1990s”.
Sir John has also dropped strong hints about something in the planning stage which could rival the Porsche 959 in terms of publicity. Although a supercar to rival the Ferrari F40 might be altogether too expensive, he has suggested that “We might make a ‘special’ with our production components, bring it to a motor show and see whether see can get 200 orders for it. Specials are fun, and give a manufacturer a lot of prestige. Maybe we could make more than 200 . . .”
In the long term a smaller Jaguar might appear to rival BMW’s 325i and Mercedes’ six-cylinder 190, allowing volume production and a younger customer profile. But this is at least ten years away, and Egan stresses that the finance would have to come from earnings, not borrowings.
Jaguar would not be alone in stalling costly programmes while the Dollar remains weak. With the American market still accounting for 50% of production, the exchange rates hold the key to many of the things Jaguar would like to do in the 1990s.