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Jaguar treads bold new path

Roger Putnam: "It's all about making the brand more relevant, that's the real issue for me."

The Cat is on the attack with plans to quadruple sales

18 Jun 2001

THE next five years will be the most challenging in the history of Jaguar as it seeks dramatic growth via an expansive model program, according to worldwide sales and marketing director Roger Putnam.

He said the plans meant the Jaguar brand was currently being stretched as far as it could, although he did not believe it was being put at risk.

Jaguar is in the process of launching the X-Type compact luxury sedan - a direct competitor for the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-class. It will play a vital role in the company achieving 200,000 sales by about 2003 - quadrupling the 50,000 achieved in 1998.

Jaguar has massive activity planned over the next five years including refreshing the S-Type, an all-new XJ replacement, expansion of the X-Type range and the introduction of the F-Type roadster as the fifth model line.

By 2006 the entire product portfolio should have been renewed or refreshed.

"I see this next five years as the most challenging because of the growth," Mr Putnam said.

"We are looking to quadruple our volume over five or six years and that's something which took BMW and Mercedes 15 years to achieve.

"The circumstances are different. There's more disposable income, luxury brands are more appealing, so you can't look at it as apple cycles, but in terms of sheer scale of shift that needs a lot of managing - it's a pretty busy period." Pressing heavily on Mr Putnam's mind is the fact that Jaguar projects 80 per cent of X-Type sales will have to be conquests if it is to achieve its targets - and that means eating into the volume of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

It will also mean having to find a whole new, younger buyer and start appealing to woman, a scarce Jaguar buyer type everywhere but in the US.

"When we were stuck at the top end of the market in the niche area a lot of customers would buy a Jaguar because they wanted one," Mr Putnam said.

"When you are in the compact area, you are selling to people who are actually stretching to buy, that makes them much more demanding.

"It's quite a paradox, you ask a potential compact owner how he wants to be treated and he says 'like a Jaguar owner' but he's never been a Jaguar owner so how does he know what he wants?" Mr Putnam said a key to achieving Jaguar's goals would be not to push the brand too far too soon.

"Luxury brands are not delicate, but they are sensitive, and a luxury brand will only go where it wants to go," Mr Putnam said.

"You can't force it there, but you can manage it there over time, and I think we are putting the Jaguar brand through as much stretch as it can take at the moment.

"We're not putting it at risk, but I think we need to get the current model line-up established in the marketplace and, as I keep on saying, it's all about making the brand more relevant, that's the real issue for me.

Mr Putnam did not rule out the possibility of building a baby Jaguar, an idea expressed by Jaguar's chief designer Ian Callum.

"People are looking for more fuel-efficient, greener options, either subconsciously or consciously. If the market moves that way there is a compelling reason for us to look at a broader range," Mr Putnam said.

Jaguar is also reviewing its entire naming strategy, Mr Putnam confirmed. Its range currently consists of the XJ, XK and the two recently launched "Types" - S and X.

"We are thinking about what we do to get this eccentricity out of our naming policy," he said.

"We have given it to an agency to think about because we have struggled with it for years, where do we go next?"

Daimler not dead

SENIOR Jaguar executives have confirmed the company wants to revitalise the Daimler name by building a true competitor for Rolls-Royce, Bentley and the forthcoming Mercedes-Benz Maybach.

However, given the enormous amount of future model work underway, the Daimler project sits firmly on the backburner.

Current plans call for Daimler badging to continue on up-spec versions of the new generation XJ replacement, codenamed X350. When a true Daimler is developed it would almost certainly spin-off that platform as well.

"Daimler is a very nice property, it's not getting any harm done to it by sitting on the backburner at the moment," said Jaguar sales and marketing director Roger Putnam.

"I think eventually we all would like to see a kind of head of state-type vehicle like the Maybach or whatever, particularly for the German, the Chinese and the American markets. That sort of vehicle has still got a low volume opportunity." Jaguar styling chief Ian Callum said: "I grew up with Daimlers, I understand Daimlers, my mother learned to drive in a Daimler, so I understand wholeheartedly what a Daimler is all about.

"It's a majestic sports sedan, it's a royal car, it's got something fundamentally special about it and I'd like to see it evolving into that entity."

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