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The cat's jagged new edge

Modern: Ian Callum presents Jaguar's all-new XK coupe in Sydney.

Ian Callum: ‘We’ve got to get back to modernity - and that’s what we’re doing.’

Jaguar logo1 Nov 2005

By GAUTAM SHARMA and NEIL MCDONALD

JAGUAR design boss Ian Callum has admitted the brand needs to lose its fuddy-duddy image if it is to prosper – even survive – in the long term.

Flown-in to Sydney to present the all-new XK – the first Jaguar to genuinely bear his styling stamp – Mr Callum said he had a bold vision to reinvigorate the image of the once-illustrious British marque.

A rocky fiscal road in recent times has seen the leaping cat post monthly losses of up to $130 million, forcing the closure earlier this year of its Brown’s Lane plant in England.

Industry analysts argue Jaguar is the victim of a product line-up that relies too heavily on a retro theme: the S-Type is an unashamed tribute to its 1960s ancestors, while the XJ has been criticised for looking too much like its predecessor.

Compounding the brand’s woes is the fact that the Ford Mondeo-derived X-Type has not sold anywhere near expectations.

"We’re very aware of what we need to do," Mr Callum told GoAuto. "Jaguar needs good, cool design, and we’re going to get bucketloads of it ... I promise you. We’ve got to get back to modernity – and that’s what we’re doing.

"You’ve got to remember that, for me, this car (new XK) is two years old, I’m now seeing the future that’s two years hence. It’s very positive. If you pick a German competitor – any of them – it’s more modern than that." Jaguar is getting back to "what our real roots are", he said, "and that’s about luxury, performance, it’s about something special.

"You’re going to see much more of that attitude in the future." The XK, which will soon appear in convertible form, is "perhaps the mildest form" of Jaguar’s new design push, he asserted.

The next Callum-inspired Jag will be the next-generation S-Type, which is expected in 2007.

Mr Callum is adamant that car will not hark to a bygone era. "I don’t do retro," he said defiantly. "It’s all a sense of values. The core values will stay – modernity is one of them, beauty is another – and we’ll follow these values. But there’ll be no retro, I promise you." It has been suggested the front grille and headlights of the RD-6 concept car will fi nd their way into the new S-Type.

Jaguar insiders say the S-Type, which may also get a less-costly version of the XK’s allaluminium architecture, will have a strong hint of the sleek styling of the Mercedes-Benz CLS about it.

The S-Type will be followed – possibly around 2009-10 – by the next-generation XJ flagship sedan.

Was the same-again styling of the current XJ a mistake? "If it (XJ) has any faults, that’s probably one of them," Mr Callum conceded, before adding that the next XJ will be "far more of a departure from the norm than people expect".

As for the slow-selling X-Type, a vehicle of a different genre will eventually replace it.

"There’ll be something in that class of car, but it won’t necessarily be an X-Type." Jaguar is also believed to be working on a crossover-style vehicle to tap into the booming 4WD segment.

The designer’s recent exposure with the XK has also opened up criticism that the newcomer looks suspiciously similar in profile to the Aston Martin DB9.

Mr Callum makes no apologies for such comparisons. As he was one of the key drivers of the DB9’s design – as well as the Vanquish – he said any similarities between the pair are a reflection of modern safety regulations governing headlights, bonnet height and bumpers, all of which cannot be avoided in a modern sportscar.

Such modern-day imposts have made the lot of the car designer much tougher, he said. "It sets you up to try and be more creative," he said. "You’ve got to think of solutions to these challenges." In his view, the profile of the Aston is very similar to the XK "for good reason".

 center image"You’ve got crash considerations, bumpers, engines, cowl point, occupant protection measures inside, aerodynamics and the tail," he said. "And when you join these dots to get that profile you’ve got exactly the same constraints on both cars, so by default you end up with a similar profile.

"The form language is quite different but admittedly there’s an element in there that’s me. I can’t help that." In his eyes though, the DB9 and 224kW 4.2-litre V8 XK are quite different beasts, more than their mere two-door profiles and low-slung bodies suggest.

"If you look at the Aston, the form language is quite tight," he said. "I describe it as wearing a tailored suit. Very tight, very precise and quite masculine.

"It’s not too flamboyant and it’s a British sportscar." He believes the basic things, like proportion, are very important on every Jaguar.

"Jaguars have always had the best proportions of any car in the world," he said.

Under his watchful eye, Callum is resolute that tomorrow’s Jaguars will remain true to the spirit of the cars first created by Sir Williams Lyons, the father of the original XK.

Who is Ian Callum?

He was born in Dumfries, Scotland, in 1954 and attended a course in industrial design at Glasgow School of Art, followed by a two-year course in automobile design at the Royal College of Art.

His performance at the RCA persuaded Ford to recruit him and, from 1978, he spent 12 years working in the company’s design studios in Britain, Japan, the United States, Australia and Germany.

He was then appointed design manager responsible for Ford’s Ghia Design Studio in Turin. During his time at Ford he worked on the Fiesta, Mondeo, Ford RS200 mid-engined sports car, Escort RS and the Cosworth.

While he was with Ghia in Turin he played a leading role in the Via design concept for a mid-engine sports car and the Ghia Zig and Zag.

In 1990, he returned to the UK to head up Tom Walkinshaw’s studio TWR Design in Oxford. At TWR he designed various cars for Holden Special Vehicles, as well as Aston Martin (DB7 and Vanquish), Ford (Puma), Volvo (C70), Nissan (R390 Le Mans) and Mazda, Rover and Range Rover.

He joined Jaguar as design director in 1999, helping launch the new XJ, S-Type facelift and heading the design team towards the R Coupe, RD-6 and the Advanced Lightweight Coupe.

What's coming from Jaguar:

XK Convertible - 2006
All-new S-Type sedan - 2007
Jaguar crossover - 2008
All-new X-Type sedan - 2008
All-new XJ sedan - 2009

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