A series of strategic errors, internal struggles and inefficient processes have cost Jaguar billions of dollars and waylaid the automaker's attempts at returning to prosperity.
Jaguar's core problem has been an inability to get fresh, stylish product to market.
Jaguar insiders say the 1999 death of respected chief designer Geoff Lawson clouded the company's vision. Lawson's death did more than derail his work in progress.
The studio has been battling ever since over how to honor Lawson's vision while still moving the design in a new direction under Ian Callum.
That was a major reason for the 2003 XJ's conservative design, which executives say has hurt the car.
Lewis Booth, executive vice president of Ford Motor Co.'s Premier Automotive Group, says that with future designs Jaguar "won't make the same mistake again."
"We won't look back so hard," Booth says. "Sir William Lyons (Jaguar's founder) was not scared of significant design changes while still making Jaguars."
Jaguar also takes too long to freshen its products. The XK coupe - finally redesigned for this year - will have lingered on shelves for nine years. The S-Type likely will have a nine-year life span, as will the X-Type.
By comparison, Lexus and Infiniti redesign their vehicles every five or six years, while most German luxury offerings alternate sheet metal and powertrain updates every three years or so. As the saying goes, it's hard to sell stale bread.
Another big drain on Jaguar has been inefficient manufacturing. Using three assembly plants to build about 100,000 cars per year on four separate platforms has bled the company.
This year Jaguar will close its Browns Lane plant, moving all XJ, XK and S-Type final assembly to Castle Bromwich, 15 miles away in the British Midlands. The XJ and the XK will share similar manufacturing methods and many major components. The next S-Type may use a smaller version of the same platform, executives hint.
Jaguar also gets help sharing the cost of the Halewood plant, which is operating at well under 50 percent of capacity while building the X-Type. Production of the redesigned Land Rover Freelander will move this summer to the Liverpool-area plant, from Land Rover's Solihull factory in the Midlands.
As a result, Land Rover will assume half the plant's costs, although executives will not give a figure.
Matthew Taylor, managing director of Land Rover, said the Halewood investment is needed to keep pace with Land Rover's growth.
Although sharing Halewood's costs will help, it won't cure Jaguar's woes.
Says Booth: "Slimming Jaguar's structural costs is part of the plan, but we won't cost-save Jaguar into prosperity."
You may e-mail Mark Rechtin at [email protected]