Like nearly all automotive success stories, Jaguar Land Rover's resurgence is rooted in engineering and design. Ford Motor Co. also deserves some credit, even though the auto giant wasn't able to finish its plans for the luxury brands before more pressing problems forced a sale during the recession.
The newly formed JLR under Tata Motors ownership was cash-poor in the summer of 2008, but it also was motivated.
After being spit out of British Leyland and passing through numerous corporate owners over the years, neither Jaguar nor Land Rover had an engineering staff capable of designing a complete vehicle from the wheels up, powertrain included. But both brands together did.
"Both the size and scale of the companies were good, though not big enough to survive on their own," recalled Bob Joyce, a former JLR product development chief. "But when you combined them, they had a lot of synergies and not a lot of overlap. When Land Rover came out of BMW, they had 1,200 engineers. Jaguar had about 1,000. Land Rover had some diesel engine knowledge, but very little petrol engine experience, whereas Jaguar had protected its petrol engine experience.
"Land Rover had body engineering experience that came out of the Rover Group. So, you added it up together and it came to a considerable group of engineers."
Current and former JLR executives agree Ford did considerable work to set up JLR for success. One example: In the 1990s, Ford began developing a production system for lightweight aluminum bodies. In 1993, Ford built 40 Mercury Sable sedans with riveted and bonded aluminum panels, saving 400 pounds over the steel version. Though the production method was too expensive for Ford's high-volume mainstream vehicles, it was a perfect fit for Jaguar.
Ford planners believed Jaguar would have trouble meeting strict European carbon dioxide standards in the coming years with its heavy steel-bodied cars. In 2003, Jaguar launched its first aluminum-bodied car, the XJ, using a version of Ford's production system.
A decade later, the Range Rover moved to an aluminum body, using a modified version of the production system Ford developed. Ironically, Ford finally did use its system on the aluminum-bodied 2015 F-150.
Two more pieces of JLR's puzzle were Ian Callum, Jaguar's head of design, and Gerry McGovern, Land Rover's design boss. Both possessed a lifetime passion for their brands and were now free to express it in metal.
After the embarrassing failures of the Ford-based Jaguar X-Type and S-Type and after Land Rover fought off attempts to create Land Rover versions of the Ford Escape and Explorer, Jaguar and Land Rover were starting to get more freedom.
With the XF sedan, launched in the closing days of the Ford era, Callum finally shed Jaguar's retro design language that dated all the way back to the mid-1960s.
The 2008 LRX concept, started under Ford, was one of the first vehicles approved for production under Tata. It became the Range Rover Evoque and has been a monster success, with more than 730,000 units sold since its 2012 debut.