New Jaguar Sedan: Down With Heritage

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

The remnants of the British automotive industry offer a wealth of important lessons for America’s declining industry, having made the hero-to-zero leap a few decades ago. And though British Leyland would certainly constitute the major lesson from the fall of the British Automotive Empire, the overemphasis on “heritage” among survivors of the BL experiment offers teachable moments of its own. During and after the sunset on Britain’s auto heyday, investments and advantages in technology, performance and reliability were ceded to the Japanese and German firms, as the backwards-looking British industry got lost in its own history. “Charm” and “Britishness” became the raisons d’brand for Jaguar, Rover, Landie and Rolls/Bentley in the 70s, 80s and 90s, leading to a creative funk only recently be shaken off by the brands’ new guides. Case in point: Jag’s XJ.

Having languished without major updates for decades, the model never sought to distinguish itself from its fading glory, even after entering the aluminum spaceframe era in 2003 (at great expense to then-owners Ford). Only MINI, under BMW’s guidance, has successfully reinterpreted British heritage in a successful modern iteration. Otherwise, aging technology and staid kitsch characterize public perceptions of automotive “Britishness.” Until now. Jaguar’s modern XF has inspired a long-overdue XJ replacement that, based on recently-released teaser images, appears to have made a clean break from Jaguar’s backwards-looking styling hangover.

Even the Chinese masters of the Rover heritage (now known by the Chinglish-friendly Roewe name) have managed to look past Ye Olde Pastiche, showing a brand new sedan in Shanghai (via Autoblog Simplified Chinese) that owes nothing to the brand’s wood-paneled past. The lesson for America’s struggling muscle car-hawking OEMs is clear: nostalgia is a dangerous drug. In a competitive global market, consumers can not be relied upon to purchase a car based solely on a decades-old reflected grandeur. Cars must compete on their own terms, which means modernization and relevance are a must.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Changsta Changsta on Apr 22, 2009

    I'm not a fan of jaguar's new styling direction. the rear end could have come from any new aston martin, and the front end is pretty bland. while the old s-type and xj were long in the tooth, they were still instantly recognizable as jags. let's hope this new xj doesn't resemble the xf too much....

  • John Horner John Horner on Apr 23, 2009

    The aluminum redesign of the XJ was a horrific waste of money.

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