COVENTRY - Jaguar is spending $1.6 million to research future products, including the proposed X400 that would compete against the BMW 3 series.
In addition, Jaguar is studying the 5-series market where its X200 will compete in 1999, and other Jaguar segments.
But the main interest is the X400.
The strengths and weaknesses of likely rivals to the proposed X400 model - BMW 3 series, Mercedes C-class, Audi A4 - are being investigated in depth, said Marketing Director Phil Cazaly.
Research teams began in Germany where 500 drivers, including 100 women, are being interviewed.
Cazalay said the 3 series is 'head-on competitive' among people in the 30s and 50-55 age groups.
Research includes ride and drive events, Cazalay said, 'so we can set targets against the best in class.'
Similar customer groups will be researched in the UK, USA and Japan. Together with Germany, these markets account for 80 percent of Jaguar sales.
In the luxury sporting segment, 500 drivers in the four markets will be surveyed to check the effectiveness of the XK8 and the XJ V-8.
'We have no plans to replace these cars, but we need to know where we are heading and a very early voice-of-the-customer will help us,' Cazaly said.
To determine the market positioning of the X200, due to launch in 1999, 150 potential buyers in Germany, France, Italy, Tokyo and Hong Kong were sampled.
'This adds up to the biggest market research by far that Jaguar has ever undertaken,' Cazaly said, with 60 market researchers at work.
'We have always researched the UK. Now we have to get out of the home retailing attitude and take a global look. In the past we have to a certain extent sold on name and on external and interior style. Now,' he said, 'we need to give people a lot of more rational reasons to buy Jaguar.'
Jaguar is currently on a high. Nine-month sales this year are 10 percent ahead of last year and will exceed 45,000, Cazaly forecast. The biggest improvement has been in Germany, where the year will end at about 3,300 units, 22 percent ahead of 1996. Jaguar dealers in Germany are investing $57 million in preparation for the X200.
In Japan, sales will reach a new peak of 2,700 this year. Japanese dealers are investing $33 million.
Jaguar projected sales of 50,000 next year, 85,000 in 1999 when the X200 is introduced, and 100,000 units in 2000. The X400 would add 100,000 units.
The XJ and XK series will continue at the original Browns Lane plant in Coventry. The X200 will be built at a second factory in West Bromwich. The X400 would probably go to a Ford location in the UK, Germany or the USA.