By on October 10, 2013

Long time Evo writer Harry Metcalfe has left the magazine to work for Jaguar Land Rover, in a role that is the dream of journalists everywhere: helping to develop halo versions of their current and future model range.

A frequent meme on TTAC (at least when you see my byline) is the denigration of what I call the armchair product planning brigade, the peanut gallery cohort who insist that OEMs import diesels, build station wagons and equip every car with a manual transmission. It’s easy to call for these kinds of cars without an understanding of the auto market and the economic and regulatory realities that underpin it. It’s not an exaggeration to say that TTAC helped open my eyes to them.

In my brief career as an auto writer, I have had the privilege of seeing what really goes into automotive product planning. Before I had any understanding of how the industry worked, I thought it was simply a cabal of guys and girls who liked to sit and talk about cars and decide on what would get built by the car company. In other words, it seemed like the best job in the world. Little did I realize how difficult and exacting the job really is.

My estimation of the profession has only increased as I’ve had more access to that side of the industry. It is a job that requires attention to detail, hours of Excel spreadsheets, and endless presentations to senior management. Everything must be justified on an economic basis to finance people who want to do things for as little money as possible.

All in all it is an essential job that most people who discuss cars on the internet tend to believe they could  do better. Personally, I’m not so sure I could. But Harry Metcalfe seems to have, against all odds, landed that dream-like version of the Product Planning gig, the one where someone is paying you to act as a visionary for a range of high-performance luxury cars. Best of luck to Harry and Jaguar Land Rover.


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16 Comments on “Harry Metcalfe Leaves Evo For Jaguar Land Rover...”

  • avatar

    Yay, more XF Goodwood Editions and Range Rover Mulliner Holland Gun Show Special Trunks.

    • 0 avatar

      It might not be all bad. One of my favorite EvoDiaries is when Harry talks about his Lotus Elan, and goes into how engineered it was for handling. Adding wider tires would ruin the Elan (I think they were section 155). I hope he still gets the chance to do videos like that from time to time, because even being a bit of a bumbling Brit, I’m a rambler myself, but it’s cool to see how cramped the door sills are seats were in a Rapide against his Maserati Gran Turismo.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Lol…Mulliner has pretty much been annexed into Bentley, so no Mulliner Range Rovers, especially since Bentley is working on its own luxury SUV.

  • avatar

    I always thought Harry was a part owner or something to that effect of the magazine?

  • avatar

    So that must be what’s wrong with car designs these days, their made by people with degrees in journalism…

    Explains the Camry commercial “grounded to the ground”

    • 0 avatar

      The commercial is difficult to explain, that wife’s “grounded” line may have been scripted or it just may reflect how uninformed and nitwitted the American driving public truly has become. I’m leaning toward the latter.

    • 0 avatar

      As far as I know, not many have made the leap. The most well known example was Bob Hall, father of the Miata.

      • 0 avatar

        When Bob Lutz was in charge of product for GM, he hired Jack Keebler (Motor Trend), Rich Ceppos (Car & Driver), Ron Sessions (Road & Track) and Nick Twork (Autoweek).

        Harry Mundy worked as an engineer for BRM and Coventry Climax before becoming an editor at Autocar. While at Autocar he designed the Lotus Twin Cam head for the Ford Kent block. Later he took a job at Jaguar were he worked on the design of the Jaguar V12.

        Josef Ganz was another automotive writer who had a significant career as an engineering consultant for car companies.

        Pete Brock, the designer, has worked on both sides of the street, as has designer Bob Cumberford.

        I believe that Leonard Setright also consulted.

        So I guess that what Harry Metcalfe has done is really not that unusual.

    • 0 avatar

      At Hummvee: I wouldn’t say that, I think the bigger issues are the following:

      1. Focus Groups, just look at the Chrysler Crossfire and Pontiac Aztek concept vehicles, yes they were odd, but look at the busy unpopular messes that resulted with extra unnecessary details added in and corporate “masks” on them, so the Crossfire gets the same nose as Chryslers mini-van.

      2. Stupid designer mindsets, if you look at the “walls” and such where they go to get inspiration you’ll note that NONE of them look to cars be they past or present, well except for Japan as they don’t mind making cars that look like cars, well thats how it was until recently.

      3. Cooporate handling, a car may have two or three designers but so many others get involved that the design is often very diluted beyond its original conception.

      4. Most designers don’t actually drive the cars they design, if they did we’d have windows that we could see out of, better interiors, and maybe bumpers.

      5. Way too much emphasis on style, typically cars have always had styling cues with sports and exotics getting the biggest treatment while mundane practical cars were just that, and you were lucky to get any styling cues on a pick-up truck. Now everything is styled to high heaven, you’ll find more streaks, vents, bulges, wrinkles, abstract shapes in even the saddest Chevy Spark than in a Corvette C5.

      The way I see it, we should just fire 78% of the designers in the business and grab some engineers to do the styling, do that and it’ll be much easier to get new models out the door and there will be less defectsrecalls.

      • 0 avatar

        The sad thing about design is that everyone thinks they can do it well, despite the overwhelming evidence we see every day demonstrating that the vast majority of us can not. Assuming that engineers have an innate ability to design for aesthetics is just nuts.

        The guy who did the engineering work on my last house was a great engineer, but I sure as heck wouldn’t let him design my house or pick out the furniture.

  • avatar

    “It is a job that requires attention to detail, hours of Excel spreadsheets, and endless presentations to senior management.”

    Therein lies the rub, if you assume that senior management actually knows what they are doing. This design by committee and death by a thousand cost cutting measures results in middling products that inspire lust in exactly no one and remind you of their cheapness or questionable design decisions constantly. Product planning is definitely more difficult than the average internet commenter gives credit, but it’s also more difficult than it needs to be given the dysfunctional bureaucracies that seem to run car companies these days.

    I once sat in a meeting at Ford reviewing the plan for the protective wrap during the transport of a low volume new vehicle. Just a small piece of the huge effort it takes to launch a new car, but not one that should require the 50 people in attendance!

    • 0 avatar

      GiddyHitch, you could at least let us know when this meeting happened or who was CEO at the time? Was this perceived inefficiency due to the inattentive management of a previous CEO or were there 50 people there because Mulally insisted that problems be brought to light and solved, rather than hidden and ignored?

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff Weimer

        Sounds like if it’s low volume and that small a detail brought that much interest, it was probably the GT. Pre-Mulally, I think.

        • 0 avatar

          I would have been a lot more engaged had it been the GT but that came later. This was to be Ford’s highest end model (as opposed to variant) for a time and only appealed to the AARP demographic. Jacques was running the show during development. I would hope that things would have changed under Mullaly but I am no longer in that industry. GM made Ford look downright lean and efficient in comparison at the time, and based on their decisions over the past decade, that most likely is the case today (i.e, GM is still orders of magnitude more dysfunctional than Ford).

  • avatar

    I don’t know if I would want the responsibility of the development of a “halo” car. If you get it right you’re a genius hero, get it wrong and you’re a Bangle Butt

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