Daily Podcast: X Marks the Stain

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

There are plenty of auto industry execs who see car enthusiasts a bunch of Buddy Pines. I'm talking about the sycophantic fan in The Incredibles: a boy whose ambition to be Mr. Incredible's sidekick foundered on his abject lack of superpowers. In fact, Buddy Pine's pathetic devotion put Mr. Incredible in harm's way, and, eventually, turned Pine from a fan into Mr. Incredible's murderous stalker. The truth about car fans is far better represented by a cartoon panel that shows a King looking down on his troops as they head into battle. A man stands next to him holding a machine gun. "I don't have time for salesmen now!" the King shouts. I was reminded of the image when I discovered that Jaguar is finally consigning the X-Type to the scrap heap of history. Enthusiasts had been warning Ford that they were killing Jag from Day One, when it was clear FoMoCo knew about as much about careful parenting as Cronos. The X-Type turned out to be the British brand's ultimate indignity– and that's saying something. If Ford and Jag had listened to Jaguar's most passionate if amateur guardians they could have, well, it breaks your heart to see the XK120 and E-Type's descendants descend into the abyss. Keep this in mind when you comment here and elsewhere, and rest assured that there will come a day when car companies realize they have to let us inside the factory gates. For their own good.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Jthorner Jthorner on Oct 15, 2007

    Jaguar has been a mess every since the loss of it's founder, William Lyons. None of the management since that time has brought his eye for design and VALUE to the forefront. In it's heyday Jaguars were a bargain in their class. Today it is just another high priced wannabe premium automobile. It is hard to replace genius.

  • Willbodine Willbodine on Oct 15, 2007

    I have a different take on Ford's stewardship of Jaguar and the X-Type. Few buyers of upper class "sports sedans" today have much knowledge of Jaguar's glory days. Hell, most of them weren't even born then. What Ford needed to do was offer tweedy British equivalents of the 3, 5 and 7 Series. And install some US style quality control. Maximizing economies of scale by having the S-Type and Lincoln LS share platforms and also the X-Type and Mondeo, that's just good business strategy. I've driven both the S and X Types and they offered a competitive driving experience to their Mercedes, BMW and Audi competitors. Where they went wrong, I think, was in pricing the Jags like their competition. $38 Large for a loaded X-Type in 2002? I don't think so. Same car @ $28,000, ka-ching! They needed to undercut the competition on price, all other things being equal. Even the old-fashioned "styling" wouldn't have been a deal killer if the prices had been right. Pretty basic, and I'm surprised that a "marketing" behemoth like Ford got it all so terribly wrong.

  • Justin Berkowitz Justin Berkowitz on Oct 15, 2007

    @willbodine: Thanks for the differing perspective. As it happens, Ford/Jaguar basically did try to price the X-Type lower. Since most cars in the U.S. in the 3-Series/C-Class/A4 segment are leased, Jaguar heavily subsidized lease prices. As a result, it was possible in 2002 to get an X-Type 2.5 for about $400 a month (with $0 down payment), which was roughly $100-$150 cheaper/month than its competitors. For the X-Type's first two years, it was Jaguar's best selling model by a good margin. But so what? Sales didn't mean profits, since they were taking a loss on many leases. Those people had zero brand loyalty and jumped ship for something else when the lease was over. And in the process, Jaguar exposed huge numbers of people to "that crummy cheap Jag," turned them off to the brand, and diluted whatever was left of its exclusive image.

  • Stein X Leikanger Stein X Leikanger on Oct 16, 2007

    There are many ways of making brand loyalty come about - and a few ways of destroying it. Can anyone tell me what purpose Jaguar's had ever since Ford came on board? Anyone? That's job numero Einz when it comes to building a car brand: gotta have a purpose. Whether it's luxury, driving performance, comfort, technological superiority, lowest mileage. Gimme a purpose so that I can understand your brand. Jaguar had none. None whatsoever that was discernible. It was all over the place. Apparently, judging by the Where's George campaign, in latter years it's been being a perfumed car maker? Maybe Ford would have done a better job with Saab, and GM would have "gotten" Jaguar. Who knows? Ford snatched Jaguar from GM, and then went on to überford the cat; and GM got stuck with Saab, doing its damndest to turn it into something else. All the time - relevant to the article - fans were SCREAMING with dismay. Didn't matter - management knew best. I used to own an E-type. I miss it. I'm going to have to look for another one. I've owned a couple of better Saabs than the ones on the road today, I miss those as well.