Jaguar sticks with steel S-Type
Aluminum unibody would take too long to develop says CEO
By MARK RECHTIN | AUTOMOTIVE NEWS
The next generation S-Type will stick with steel construction (current model shown.)
Photo by Global Auto Index
GAYDON, England -- After considering aluminum, Jaguar executives have decided to stick with steel for the unibody and most of the body panels of the next-generation S-Type.
An aluminum body would have taken precious time to develop, said Geoff Polites, CEO of Jaguar and Land Rover. Also, aluminum is more expensive than steel, and midrange luxury customers don't want it, he said.
The Jaguar XJ sedan and XK coupe use aluminum. Polites confirmed that the redesigned XJ sedan coming in late 2009 will stay with aluminum. Many manufacturers use aluminum for body panels such as the hood and trunk lid.
The redesigned S-Type will arrive in the United States in the spring of 2008. The vehicle is essential to revive a brand that is reeling from plunging sales and a string of losses.
"It would have taken us 18 more months to develop an aluminum S-Type," Polites said in an interview here. "With so many new entries out there, a quicker time to market was essential."
Polites said the next S-Type will use "an all-new platform," not an evolution of the existing platform shared with the Lincoln LS sedan.
The current S-Type sedan hit its 22,000-unit U.S. sales target only in 2000, its first full year after launch. It quickly slipped to the 15,000-unit range for several years. In 2005, Jaguar sold just 8,897 units in the United States. Sales through May this year fell 24.8 percent.
Midrange luxury buyers place little importance on aluminum, Polites said.
"There is the practical advantage of the lightness of aluminum, but the market does not want it," he said.
But Polites said the next-generation XJ sedan will stay with aluminum: "Having invested so much in an aluminum stamping facility, to go back to steel would mean we would have to invest a couple hundred million dollars in a whole new body shop."