As the XF sport sedan racks up solid sales around the world, and the flagship XJ hits the road, Jaguar has shifted focus to creating a sports car with the same impact as the E-Type of the 1960s. It has no plans to go retro with a 21st century E-Type, and is not even planning to use the same name, but knows its new two-seater must be something special.
"Now the real work starts. It's an exciting time for us now," says Jaguar's design chief, Ian Callum. "I'm not trying to reference the E-Type, although there are things about the E-Type I like. You cannot do a car like that these days, with all the regulations and things. Above all, it's got to be a pretty car."
Jaguar has yet to confirm a sports car program, only referring to the project officially as "our fourth car" - after the two-door XK, XF and XJ - but it is an open secret in talks during the XJ launch in Paris. "We are working on sports cars. It has to be something like that," Callum says.
The man who heads the sports car project, Jaguar Land Rover's head of product development Phil Hodgkinson, says the car is vital. "We had to evolve the brand and make hay. We have to pitch the next one very carefully," he says. "The key word is confidence. When you are confident you can be a bit braver, a bit bolder. Our belief is probably higher than it's ever been."
Jaguar sources confirmed the sports car will be built in aluminium, most likely with the engine in the front, and the powerplants are expected to be V6 and V8s running on petrol. Hodgkinson says Jaguar should double its sales this year from 52,000 in 2009 and promises the company will not repeat the mistake it made with the baby X-Type, which was just a re-bodied Ford Mondeo.
"There is a clear strategy. You should have no fears. We know what we're doing. In the past we've been schizophrenic. We've got to get rid of the old man's car image at Jaguar. We've got to get a car that a 25 year old, even if they cannot afford it, is a car that want to have. We want to develop and evolve sports cars and more sporty sedans, and driver's cars. We want a sports car."