Jaguar Land Rover said it took inspiration from technology companies for its new research and development center.
"We are now an IT company. We have to go away from the old ways of doing things," CEO Ralf Speth said at the opening of the center in Gaydon, central England, on Thursday.
Speth said the company borrowed ideas from the headquarters of Chinese tech giants Baidu and Alibaba, among others, when planning the center.
The center brings together the design studios of Jaguar and Land Rover on the same site for the first time, along with the automaker's engineering and purchasing teams.
Having everyone in the same building will ensure a leaner development process, Speth said.
Bringing closer together designers, engineers and procurement employees means "higher quality and an earlier time to market," Speth told Automotive News Europe.
The design center has offices around a central T-shaped covered street with places such as cafes and informal meeting areas to allow the 13,000 staff to freely congregate.
"Communication is at the end of the day innovation, so we try to do it here," Speth said.
JLR is caught up in the same technology trap as all its rivals in the automotive industry. The demand for smarter technology from buyers familiar with the frenetic pace of development from smartphone and internet companies is being matched by the push to electrification from legislators, putting huge strain on finances.
Finances are already strained at JLR after China woes pushed the company into a loss last year (construction of the center started back when China was still highly profitable for the company).
However, the automaker says the resulting cost savings and job cuts in the last 12 months or so have made it more efficient. "It was probably the hardest time in my career to restructure the company, but we are more agile," Nick Rogers, head of engineering, told journalists at the opening.
Rogers said the number of staff working on traditional mechanical engineering is shrinking as it hires more software, mechatronics and electrical system engineers.
Speth talked about having to write "100s of millions of lines of code" as importance of software overtakes that hardware in the minds of buyers.
Jaguar Land Rover's current most high-tech vehicle, the Jaguar I-Pace electric SUV, has three electric modules than can be updated wirelessly over the air.
The new Land Rover Defender, arriving next year, will have 14 updateable modules.
Rogers boasted about 'dual-banking' technology, where updates do not compromise the functionality of the system unlike on computers, which can be inoperable when updates are taking place.
Some automotive engineering traditions are still alive at the Gaydon site. Test-beds resound to the sound of combustion engines being run 24/7, and Rogers gave no timetable for phasing out engine development, as others have done.
Inside Jaguar's new design center, full-size clay models are still being used to refine the look of future designs.
In fact, the number of clay plates that hold the models has gone up from two in the old studio to 10, even if the process to draw the cars, 'mill' the clay shape and record their final proportions and is done digitally.
The cars themselves might be stuffed with technology but they are still close enough to their ancestors to need traditional skills for years to come.