JLR still tops when it comes to aluminum

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- With total global sales of 425,000 vehicles last year, Britain’s Jaguar Land Rover is well behind German rivals BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

But there is an asterisk next to the sales figures for luxury car companies.

Today, no one makes more aluminum-bodied vehicles than JLR. Its latest, the Jaguar F-Type sports car, is a global hit, as are the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. All have aluminum bodies.

Next month, JLR will introduce in London the Jaguar XE, a compact BMW 3 series-sized sedan, also to be made from aluminum. It could be the company’s highest volume aluminum vehicle when it goes on sale next year. Novelis Inc. is the exclusive aluminum supplier to Jaguar for the XE.

At the seminars today, Mark White, JLR’s chief technical specialist for lightweight vehicle structures, said using aluminum in the XE over steel reduced weight by 40 percent.

The steel-bodied BMW 3-series sedan weighs 3,295 pounds. The XE should easily come in under that weight.

And it is not just the XE’s body that’s on a diet.

XE launches with a new family of in-house engines that replace the Ford-sourced engines that JLR vehicles currently use. JLR says its Ingenium engines reduce weight by 80 kilograms, or 176 pounds.

Jaguar's XE compact sedan is expected to arrive in 2016. A crossover, a coupe and perhaps a wagon will follow.

White says the aluminum-bodied XE has been designed for repair-ability, with many bolt-on replacement body parts.

JLR has not said how many XEs it plans to produce yearly at a new assembly line at the company’s Solihull, England, plant. But JLR CEO Ralf Speth has said the company plans to increase overall volume to 750,000 units by the end of next year.

Until the Ford F-150 hits full production next year, JLR will remain the world’s largest producer of aluminum-bodied vehicles.

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