LOS ANGELES - With the debut of its S-Type luxury sedan in the United States, Jaguar Cars Inc. hopes to attract a younger buyer and win sales away from the BMW 5 series, Mercedes-Benz E class and Lexus GS sedans.
It is the first time in the modern era that Jaguar has dropped into the mainstream luxury segment from its traditional haunt in the rarefied upper end. Jaguar is making the journey cautiously.
'This is a new segment for Jaguar, but clearly not for the industry,' said Steve O'Dell, vice president of sales and marketing for Jaguar Cars. 'In entering this segment, people told us, 'You have to deliver a Jaguar.''
The S-Type already appears to be making waves. Only 20 percent of pre-orders from customers are from current Jaguar owners, O'Dell said. The S-Type goes on sale the first week in May.
The S-Type also represents another first for Jaguar: It shares a platform with Ford Motor Co. -specifically, the Lincoln LS sedans.
Is Jaguar worried about the dilution of its famed brand by pairing with a supposedly lesser marque and by raising its volume target? Apparently not.
THE SAME, BUT DIFFERENT
As for sharing parts with Lincoln, Chief Program Engineer David Szczupak said: 'There are no parts-bin parts on this car.'
Some common systems were developed jointly, such as the fuel tank, suspension components, steering gear and air conditioning blowers, he noted.
But while the 3.0-liter Duratec engine goes down the same machining line in Cleveland and uses an identical forged steel crankshaft, the Jaguar version has its own cylinder head, valve train, variable valve timing and three-stage intake manifold, Szczupak added.
Will reaching downward into the mainstream luxury segments hurt the brand?
Jaguar expects to sell about 22,000 S-Types in the United States annually, which would double its U.S. volume. But even with the S-Type and the soon-to-come X400, Jaguar's global volume won't breach 200,000.
'Clearly there is a demand for an S-Type car,' O'Dell said. 'The consumers we've talked to don't see the S-Type and X400 diluting the brand, so long as the XJ and XK clearly stay at the top. It's an aspirational brand.'
WON'T PUSH DEALERS
Other marques have used the introductions of extremely important products to wrest concessions from their dealers, such as showroom expansion or even a dedicated showroom. O'Dell said Jaguar will not do that with the S-Type.
'Exclusivity is important,' he said. 'If we have to be in a location, but the dealer has to be dualed to make the store viable, that's fine. But Jaguar customers want to deal with a Jaguar salesman and service representative. I would expect that.'
He noted that only 15 percent of Jaguar stores are single-point sites.
In its advertising, Jaguar will use frequent visual references to the S-Type's predecessors - the 1960s-era S-Type and the Mark II - mimicking what Audi is doing in its A6 ads.
Shot in New Zealand, the same Jaguar spot will be aired globally. The music is a rousing rendition of Shirley Bassey's 'History Repeat-ing.'
Jaguar said ad spending will be up about 60 percent this year from last - which was estimated to have been about $20 million. But the frequency of Jaguar ads will be even greater, since it will benefit from purchasing its ad space under the Ford Motor umbrella.