Radical Jaguar saloon plotted in EV shake-up
New XE/XF model could emerge as an EV or a plug-in hybrid
Merging the XE and XF and migrating all mainstream models to a single flexible platform are among plans under discussion
Jaguar Land Rover bosses are facing a decision on how to replace the Jaguar XE and XF models, which are currently selling in very small numbers and were outsold by the electric I-Pace in November last year.
Autocar understands the company is focusing on how it should regroup and steady itself after a tumultuous 2018, with a review of Jaguar’s future product plans at the top of the list. While facelift versions of the cars are just months from the showroom, it is believed that company planners are now working on a strategy for the launch of new replacements for early 2023.
Sources say that JLR is starting with a blank sheet of paper for the project. The options include the XE and XF being merged into a single model, and any new vehicle could be either an electric model or a plug-in hybrid.
Meanwhile, the all-new XJ due next year is expected to be fully electric, which Jaguar hopes will appeal for luxury chauffeur-driven motoring in China and beyond.
JLR boss Ralf Speth recently told the press that low sales of today’s XE, XF and XJ models would not force the company to leave the saloon market because ‘low-profile’ vehicles will be needed to adhere to the planned EU CO2 regulations in 2030 and beyond.
The European Commission recently announced that average CO2 emissions of new cars registered in the EU will have to be 15% lower in 2025 and 37.5% lower in 2030, compared with the emission limits valid in 2021, showing the challenge ahead for a firm selling big and heavy SUVs.
The timeline also highlights a key difficulty facing JLR: would a 2023 plug-in hybrid XE/XF and the XJ be enough to help meet the 2025 targets?
Another dilemma, Autocar understands, is the likely future take-up rate for premium EV models, which remain a minority choice and dependent on government incentives.
Last year, JLR’s executive director of corporate and strategy, Hanno Kirner, held a private seminar explaining the company’s future electrification strategy. He revealed the new MLA aluminium platform, which can be used to build international combustion-engined, mild-hybrid, plug-in hybrid or fully electric vehicles. By 2025, all mainstream JLR products will be based on MLA architecture.
Kirner’s presentation also highlighted a further dilemma faced by JLR around the state of EV infrastructure. He pointed out a survey that showed 43% of potential buyers expect EVs to be as easy to recharge as it is to fill up a fossil-fuel car and noted that it takes two minutes to refuel a Discovery with a 18.5-gallon tank, resulting in a “500-plus mile range”.
JLR expects the big global cities to lead the way in EV adoption, but that customer take-up could differ greatly between Europe, the US and Asia, making it difficult to plan for global vehicles that are still five years from the showroom.
Kirner also revealed that JLR is planning to launch a number of mid-height cars in the future (possibly the rumoured Road Rover series) but also more vehicles with a small frontal area, as aerodynamic efficiency for range becomes more crucial.
The presentation hinted at a platform for the future I-Pace that will be shared with a sports model, claiming an eventual replacement for the F-Type and possibly badged I-Type.
Although big decisions on the future of Jaguar will be made in 2019, there is a great deal of more pressing work facing JLR management.
As well as negotiating with employees and unions on the planned 4500 redundancies, JLR bosses have to deal more immediately with the huge collapse in sales in China, alongside the underperformance of crucial models including all three Jaguar saloons, the F-Pace SUV and the Land Rover Discovery and Discovery Sport.
However, there is much for Speth and his team to be enthusiastic about this year. As well as the new Evoque’s arrival, there will be facelifted versions of the XE and XF and a major re-engineering of the Discovery Sport, which has been hit particularly hard by declining sales. The new Defender will also be unveiled.
In light of continually falling diesel sales, a potential fillip for JLR is that the two Jaguar saloons and the two smallest Land Rovers will be offered with various configurations of the firm’s long-awaited hybrid drivetrain in 2019.
There will be two versions for the Evoque (which is based on a different platform to the aluminium Jaguar saloons). A mild hybrid with a 48V belt-drive electric motor assisting the engine will be joined by a plug-in hybrid with a three-cylinder engine, a battery pack under the floor and an electric motor driving the rear axle. The latter gives the potential for EV-only town driving and should boost off-road ability.
The mild-hybrid front-drive petrol Evoque is expected to offer 50mpg on the new WLTP test and the diesel version slightly better. JLR says the plug-in will offer a CO2 rating of well below 140g/km.
JLR has already announced that the battery packs for the new models will be assembled in Hams Hall, outside Birmingham. The electric drive units will be made at Jaguar’s Wolverhampton engine plant.
This technology will be mirrored on the facelifted Discovery Sport and should give the model and the Evoque a significant boost on the market. Between January and November 2018, sales of the Evoque fell by 33%. The Discovery Sport was down by 23%.
So while it is hoped that Evoque sales will return to full strength and the Discovery Sport will start to recover from its own slump towards the end of 2019, Land Rover’s biggest issue is the dwindling sales of the Discovery flagship.
Indeed, between August and November 2018, sales of the seven-seater fell by 30%. In the first 11 months of the year, Land Rover sold 39,844 Discoverys. That was well behind the Range Rover Sport (70,243), Velar (61,036) and Range Rover flagship (48,811).
There may have been a backlash against production of the model being moved to a new factory in Slovakia, but the vehicle’s styling has also consistently divided opinion.
The upshot is that not only will Land Rover get a huge image boost when the new Defender appears (albeit at a premium price and probably sourced from Slovakia), two of its three biggest showroom problems could be resolved in 12 months’ time.
Jaguar also has potential solutions to its 2018 woes in the form of the facelifted XE and XF models, which will be offered with hybrid drivetrains. At least one of the versions uses a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine. Petrol mild-hybrid drivetrains will certainly make the XE and XF ranges more attractive to European buyers.
Longer term, though, falling F-Pace sales are concerning. In the four months to November 2018, they fell 31% year on year.