Is Tata Motors preparing to sell its troubled Jaguar brand while keep its more successful sibling, Land Rover?
A number of question marks surrounding the presentation of JLR's future strategy suggest that might be the case.
JLR CEO Thierry Bollore plans to make Jaguar a full-electric brand by 2025. Its model range will be much reduced, with no plans to replace Jaguar's current SUVs like the F-Pace or its current sedans.
JLR will "completely reposition the Jaguar brand," Bolllore told reporters in an online conference on Feb. 15. "This is the renaissance of Jaguar," he said.
So complete will Jaguar's separation be from the Land Rover brand that future cars will use a separate electric platform. The reason is to give the two brands clear positioning, moving Jaguar well away from Land Rover’s core products, Bollore said.
"The SUV will be Land Rover," he said. "Jaguar will be different from the SUVs."
There could be another motivation: Tata and JLR may be splitting the two brands with a view to selling Jaguar. Building Jaguars on a separate platform from Land Rover would make the sale a lot easier in terms of intellectual property.
Under previous CEO Ralf Speth, JLR had intended for Jaguar to use the same electrified Modular Longitudinal Platform, or MLA, as Land Rover. The platform was supposed to debut last year on a new XJ sedan designed by Ian Callum. The XJ had been planned as a full-electric sedan. It will not be part of the brand's new lineup, although the nameplate may be retained, Bollore said.
The reason he gave was that the large sedan "was not fitting with the new positioning" of Jaguar as the epitome of modern luxury. It could also be that JLR could not conceive of selling Jaguar when its newest model was sitting on the platform that will underpin Land Rover’s core models for years to come, starting with the new Range Rover.
Jaguar's full-electric I-Pace SUV already sits on a bespoke platform, but the extruded aluminum structure is expensive and was not intended for expansion into other models.
Bollore spoke about an all-new platform, which will not be decided upon until JLR’s design team, led by Gerry McGovern, comes up with fresh designs.
"Everyone knows the proportions are massively important, and we will pair these great designs with a platform once we have the designs," Bollore said. The designs were "not far from ready," he said.
The cost of developing another EV platform alongside MLA and the newly announced EMA (Electric Modular Architecture) for smaller Land Rovers could be prohibitive, given JLR's recent commitment to cutting costs to become sustainably profitable.
Instead, JLR might prefer to buy in an EV platform from someone like Magna International, the supplier that already builds the I-Pace at its Magna Steyr contract manufacturing plant in Austria. JLR could do that and keep Jaguar, but it would also make selling the brand a lot easier.
JLR's global vehicle sales fell 24 percent to 425,974 last year, it said on Jan. 11. Of those sales, 323,480 were Land Rovers, down 18 percent, and 102,494 were Jaguar models, down 37 percent.
Although Jaguar accounts for a small proportion of JLR's vehicle sales, there would probably be no shortage of buyers. Brands with a rich heritage like Jaguar are still highly sought after, especially in China. For example, Geely bought UK niche sports-car maker Lotus in 2017.