Jaguar says its new F-Type is its first real sports car for 50 years, and a car it had to build.
Details and images of the new Jaguar F-Type have been released officially by the company ahead of the E-Type successor’s debut at the 2012 Paris motor show.
The British brand’s sportiest offering in recent decades has been the Jaguar XK, though the company admits this is positioned as more of a two-plus-two grand tourer.
Jaguar’s brand director, Adrian Hallmark, says that after a year of updating its Jaguar XF and Jaguar XJ luxury sports sedans, the F-Type heralds a more ambitious move to reach “unexploited potential” through new models.
“The F-Type is the most important car to come from Jaguar in decades,” says Hallmark. “F-Type is the first of what we would call a breakthrough product - a new product into a new segment of new customers.
“I’m sure that Audi, BMW or Mercedes are not sitting there thinking, ‘If Jaguar decides to enter one of our segments, we should step back and give them 10 per cent of our customers, just to be gentlemen.’
“They’re not waiting for us just to come and take customers away, and at the same time from a customer point of view, nobody is waiting for us to do more and more cars per se, because the competition covers the market well.
“So whatever Jaguar does, we’ve got to be successful and we’ve got to be distinctive, we’ve go to have a point of view – that means a brand position and an approach to development of our products and our images that resonates with our consumers, so that it pulls them from their loyalty to other brands to Jaguar.”
Jaguar certainly hasn’t rushed its new sports. It’s 12 years since the company teased the world with a concept called the F-Type at the 2000 Detroit motor show.
The brand’s sales volume aspirations didn’t quite go to plan in the ensuing years, however, with the compact X-Type sedan notably struggling to reach the kind of numbers anticipated.
Jaguar today, however, is thriving under new owner Tata Motors, which purchased the brand, along with Land Rover, in 2008.
Hallmark says the company is now ready to move beyond its current three-model line-up and continue to embrace both its heritage and modernity.
“Jaguar was one of the founding members of the sports car market, but unimaginably the 1961 E-Type was our last two-seater sports car,” he says. “Without a sports car, Jaguar is not Jaguar.
“We love our heritage and wanted to create something worthy of following in the E-Type’s footsteps. But we didn’t set out to build an E-Type, but a 21st century sports car.”
Jaguar’s global sales are still rather humble compared with those of the German luxury marques, and the F-Type isn’t going to change that.
Hallmark admits the car enters a niche but argues the F-Type is more than just about sales figures.
“In one way we shouldn’t be doing it [the F-Type],” he says. “The total automotive market is 7.6 million sales, and of that 72,000 sports cars represents less than 0.1 per cent.
“If we’re going to grow why do we go to the smallest segment?
“Although the volumes are small the image associated with sports cars is far bigger than their sales suggest – small by volume but enormous in its ability to position the brand.”
The Jaguar F-Type heads into showrooms in April 2012. Jaguar Australia will release local pricing and specifications at the 2012 Sydney motor show on October 18th.