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Jaguar stylist wants to step outside the box

With style: Ian Callum and the F-Type concept – the roadster program is rolling again after Ford sidelined it in 2002.

Jaguar director of styling believes individuality is the key to survival

12 Nov 2004

THE British marque Jaguar must break away from the German "three-box" mentality and produce daring designs if it is to thrive in the ever-toughening luxury car fight and even lure away Benz, BMW and Audi customers.

So says Jaguar director of styling Ian Callum, best known in Australia for his breakthrough design work on a series of HSV Commodores for Tom Walkinshaw in the 1990s.

Jaguar is struggling in a pool of red ink at the moment. Its historic Brown’s Lane factory is to close, 400 or more employees will be made redundant and the Formula One program has been axed.

Mr Callum argues the best way to fight back is through individuality and accurate rendition of the Jaguar ethos to a younger generation, avoiding retro themes or aping others.

"I just question whether we should follow everyone else in terms of its overall concept," he said.

"Should we dimension a car the same as a (BMW) 5 Series, an (Audi) A6 or an (Mercedes-Benz) E-class. Or should we think a bit differently about it?"Why should a Jaguar be a three-box sedan?” he asked. “Everybody else does them.

"I personally feel – and that does not mean we are going to do it – we should just go off-beat. We should do something off-centre and do that.

"It’s more of Jaguar’s real heritage where inn-ovation is for fun, rather than just follow the ‘like me’ progress of Audi, BMW and Mercedes.

"There are two things: I want people who drive Jaguars to want this car, I also want people who drive Audis, Mercecdes-Benzes and BMWs to want this car as well – and I think we can do that.”

Despite starting in the Jaguar job in 1999, Mr Callum’s first big cat will be the second generation XK sports coupe and convertible, due to break cover in 2005.

But he readily admits that is an evolution rather than a revolution, so good was the original Geoff Lawson design.

Instead, he says, the car that will really set the tone will be the S-Type replacement, due in 2007.

"That’s our mainstay," Mr Callum declared.

"That’s going to be our anchor point and we are going to cascade down and move up from that. It will be fun."After S-Type will come Jaguar’s second attempt at the compact X-Type and then the F-Type coupe/roadster to sit below XK. All should be made substantially out of aluminium.

"My objective is to get to two fundamental faces," Mr Callum said. "One for sportscars and one for saloon cars, so you get some consistency.""The cars won’t be identical by any means but you will get some consistency across the car's lines and the saloon cars. I think that is very important to do that."He stressed that Jaguar had to achieve a fine balance of restrained modernity, perhaps surprising but certainly not shocking.

"You can come up with a very modern design and apply it to any car brand," he said. "And coming up with modern design is not too difficult. But what we have tried to do is maintain that uniqueness that is about constraint, I think.

"You cannot afford any vulgarity in a British car. It needs to be constrained and instantly appealing, and it is a very fine balance. You can go too far with the appealing phase – it suddenly becomes over the top."

The art of the possible

JAGUAR design boss Ian Callum has admitted that Jaguar’s advanced design department has come up with many different studies, including small cars and sports cross-overs, as a way of convincing the company’s management that Jaguar can be more of a risk-taker.

"The art of the possible to show our management is so important to me," he said.

"Once you get them thinking out of the box, it is so easy."

 center imageLEFT: A Jaguar small car based on Ian Callum's RD-6 concept. Graphic image: CHRIS HARRIS

Mr Callum first publicly discussed his enthusiasm for a small Jaguar around the same size as a Mercedes-Benz A-class with GoAuto back in 2001, and he remains committed to the idea, albeit realistic about its chances of appearing. "When you get down to that size with the best will in the world to make a buck on them is very, very hard," he said.

"Now my view is we charge more for them because we are Jaguar and I have no problem with that. I don’t think Joe Public will have a problem with that either.

"It is a hard one for management to swallow, a very risky thing to do.

"I mean, the Audi A2 is a fantastic piece of technology but I am sure it loses shedloads of money. So you have to be so careful."As for a cross-over, Mr Callum was specific in the sort of vehicle Jaguar had in mind, or even more specifically what it would not do.

"I wouldn’t want us to do a people carrier, we are not about people carriers, and some cross-overs converge into that, especially the Mercedes R-class. That to me is too much of a people carrier, we wouldn’t follow that car … but some more sport interpretation than what that is is what we should look at it.

"It has to be a very sporty connotation, it can’t be a box. Again, that’s not in the cycle plan, it’s stuff we investigate in design because that’s our job.

"We have to keep people thinking out of the box because I think Jaguar should be out of the box."

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