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The disappointment is also something of a surprise, for the XE remains a good car – and a truly great one if you like driving. Yes, it is compromised, most notably in terms of rear space and some of the infotainment technology, but in this cut-throat category, being exceptional at something has usually been enough, be it the Alfa Romeo Giulia’s on-the-edge dynamics, the Mercedes C-Class’s cabin ambience or the Audi A4’s high-tech leanings.
It’s a point acknowledged by Jaguar’s relatively new UK MD, Rawdon Glover, although he is confident that he can add some renewed impetus to sales with some incentives, ahead of the XE’s facelift, which is anticipated next year. Although you wouldn’t expect him to admit it, Jaguar has launched a succession of new cars at rapid pace and maybe – just maybe – it has struggled to keep the plates spinning fast enough to generate the interest required.
In a market where SUV sales are growing and saloon sales are shrinking, however, Krüger’s comment did strike a chord. Is the XE – a bold push into smaller car territory after all – worth the investment?
While not addressing that point specifically, Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, was adamant that backing out of categories was a recipe only for disaster, and very clear that Jaguar’s saloon heritage needed defending.
“We are a relatively small manufacturer, which means we have to win our customers. There is no big book of customers that we can refer back to. We have to persuade people to try our cars,” he said. “Once they do, they tend to love them, and we are not about to throw that away.”
Krüger, then, is likely to be disappointed.
But the question for the longer term is whether Jaguar continues to go head to head with the established players, or opts for a bolder, more radical strategy by taking advantage of the uncertainty thrown up by the changing landscape resulting from opportunities with electrification, digitalisation and connectivity.
In some, small regards, the rapturous reception to the I-Pace could be a pointer to that, although it would likely take at least five years to roll out such a strategy, from the XJ down.
After all, Speth might reasonably point out to his rivals that the I-Pace has beaten them to the punch already, arriving earlier than their offerings, and delivering more. And in a time of fast-paced change, a flagship electric SUV might eventually become more significant than an executive saloon.