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[NEWS] Editor's letter: Jaguar finally has the voice it needs

Editor's letter: Jaguar finally has the voice it needs

jaguar ev covered car
New managing director Koehn faces a monumental task, but it's someone's task to own at last

Naming Philip Koehn as MD represents significant progress in the firm's reinvention

Would it have been easier to close down Jaguar and start again? Perhaps so. Its Reimagine plan to reinvent itself as a maker of more exclusive, luxurious electric cars throws out everything but the brand name, and the connotations a brand name brings – for better or worse.

For every person who loves Jaguar, its history and its great-looking and handling cars, there will be another for whom the ‘old man’ image can never be shaken. And in the more image-focused world that Jaguar is moving into, that latter point counts more than ever. It’s one thing trying to tempt people out of a BMW 3 Series into a Jaguar XE, quite another to swap their Bentley for a ‘Jaaaag’. 

Hence why it may well have been easier to close Jaguar down and start again with a new brand and a new name, one unburdened by history to live up to or with perceptions to change.

Yet where we are: Jaguar exists and lives on. Jaguar had to do something, and closing it down would have been an easier way out. The plan is locked in, and the cars – three of them – are coming. I can understand the logic of the plan but remain to be convinced, simply because of the height of the mountain that needs scaling. You can’t just decide overnight that you’re going to be a Bentley rival.

Such opinions have been muttered and the debate has rumbled on for almost two years since the now-departed Jaguar Land Rover CEO Thierry Bolloré announced this boldest of plans. For a large part, the silence since from the company has frankly been deafening in the interim, save for a few tidbits on earnings calls from Bolloré and CFO (now acting CEO) Adrian Mardell, plus some engineering clues from vehicle line director Nick Collins.

Now Jaguar has a voice and is ready to start speaking to the world again. The appointment of Philip Koehn as its director will provide it. Koehn was quoted in some Jaguar correspondence for the first time this week (a routine press release on the 2024-model-year F-Pace). Nothing was given away, but there it was: a name attached to Jaguar for the first time in a long time. 

The ex-Rolls-Royce engineer was actually appointed back in April 2021 but has been hidden from public view until now. When we interviewed Bolloré around that time, he hinted at appointments having been made and a team set up but said they wouldn’t go public until they had something to share. Now Koehn has been unveiled to the world, that day is finally coming into view. 

Steve Cropley’s profile on Koehn has detailed his stellar career to date, the high point of which has been creating the modular architecture that underpins the current Rolls-Royce range. The similarities between that creation at Rolls-Royce and what Jaguar plans to do make you realise how appealing Koehn was to JLR, and credit to it for going out and getting perhaps the best-qualified person for the job who has plenty of experience outside the walls at Gaydon.

For the past couple of years, Jaguar has existed in a strange hinterland of a physical brand in the present being wound down yet one that exists in the future only on Powerpoint presentations and in corporate soundbites. It has lacked a voice and a leader, someone to fight its corner. In the void of hard details will always come speculation and doubt. 

Koehn’s task is a monumental one, yet at last it’s now someone’s task to own. We often say that it’s always great people who make great cars and great car companies, and now we can start to hear from some of those people who will be making this new Jaguar a reality.

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