North America :Stop talking about Jaguar's turnaround -- it has miles to go
By Daniel Howes / The Detroit News
DETROIT -- Here comes another blow to the mythical turnaround of Jaguar Cars Ltd., the gilded British marque that can't manage to make any money after 13 years of Ford Motor Co. ownership.
Owners of 5,800 X-Types with automatic transmissions -- roughly 12 percent of the X-Types sold so far in the United States -- are being urged to bring their cars to their local dealers for what Jaguar calls a "lengthy fix" to "notchy and jerky shifts."
Pity the poor X-Type. Jaguar's launch for the entry-level luxury car coincided with the September 11 terrorist attacks. Troublesome all-wheel drive differentials plagued early models. One official recall was issued for repeater switches in side turn indicators. Now this, a clunky transmission that Jaguar attributes to its supplier.
It wasn't scripted this way. The X-Type, the car that Jaguar and former Ford CEO Jacques Nasser hoped would become Ford's answer to the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, instead has become a symbol of Jaguar's ills and the alleged turnaround that never was.
Or certainly wasn't what it was purported to be. Last year, Jaguar lost $500 million, mostly because it delayed the launch of its XJ flagship sedan. Jaguar accounted for most of the $88 million first-quarter loss booked by Ford's Premier Automotive Group.
This is what can happen when an all-knowing auto boss gives a big assignment to a small company and demands results quickly. Jaguar couldn't keep up, its costs ballooned and now Ford's bottom line is feeling the heat.
The X-Type arrived in the diesel-hungry European market without a diesel engine to offer, a deficiency being rectified this fall. A controversial station wagon version comes to markets outside the United States only next year. And the X-Type arrived in U.S. showrooms in pricier versions than wannabe Jag buyers wanted. So they moved on while Jaguar scrambled to fix its mistake.
Consider this: Jaguar last year built 130,000 cars, altogether four models, in three plants. In the United Kingdom. With union labor. Three plants? Can you say "high fixed costs?"
Volvo, by comparison, builds three models in one plant in Gothenburg, Sweden. In fact, the Swedish automaker acquired by Ford in 1999 builds more than 400,000 cars in two plants, not including the niche C70 coupe.
Where, exactly, is the Jaguar turnaround credited to Nick Scheele, Ford's president and chief operating officer, and Ford-North America boss Jim Padilla? Answer: Much of what they achieved in the 1990s -- making Jaguar's Browns Lane plant Europe's most efficient, introducing the S-Type, improving Jaguar's financial health -- is a distant memory.
The X-Type shows why. The lure of fat profits in the growing luxury car business prompted Nasser and Ford's directors to lay an outsized bet on the boutiquey British marque. Oh, and it's carrying Ford's banner in Formula 1 racing. Anything else?
Let's hope not. Jaguar remains a rich brand with a legitimate performance heritage. It is, however, operating at least one too many plants and its X-Type is pushing into a segment with deeply entrenched leaders.
Impossible? No. But let's end talk about the Jaguar turnaround and quit spreading the credit. The job isn't finished.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....