The global sports car segment is facing a strong, glacial headwind, but Jaguar believes smoother waters are right around the corner. One of the company's top executives predicted the market will recover in the coming years, and he wants his team to be ahead of the curve when that happens.
"Jaguar will always build sports cars. I'd love to do more than one," affirmed Julian Thomson, the man who replaced Ian Callum at the head of the brand's design department, in an interview with British magazine Auto Express. The only sports car currently in the Jaguar portfolio is the F-Type.
While enthusiasts still love sports cars, the run-of-the-mill buyers that keep automakers profitable have rejected them in favor of crossovers and SUVs. And, requests for cleaner, more efficient cars make developing fun cars considerably more difficult; even Mazda is looking into taking the Miata into hybrid or electric territory. Jaguar faces the same challenges, but Thomson expects the sports car segment will rise up from its ashes when motorists realize they're trapped in a sea of crossovers.
"In this day and age of electrification and autonomous technology, a part of me thinks there may be a resurgence of people enjoying transportation for transportation's sake, and driving for driving's sake," he said. "Whether that makes the market bigger I don’t know, but I think there is a threat to volume production cars, and they are going to struggle to find a position on what they do. I’d hope that truly special and luxury cars, sports cars, will find a place where they have the option to be more exotic."
He stopped short of confirming a second sports car is under development, so it's far too early to pinpoint the segment it would compete in. In the meantime, Jaguar just gave the F-Type a facelift (pictured), and its vehicle development team has already started working on the model's successor. The rumor mill has started spinning; we've heard reports of the nameplate pulling a Corvette by going mid-engined, adopting BMW's 4.4-liter V8, and getting a battery-electric powertrain. The latter option would slot neatly into Jaguar's electrification push, but Thomson hinted it's easier said than done.
He explained making an electric sports car with a huge amount of power, like the 2,000-horsepower Lotus Evija, is not the answer. His team believes enthusiasts seek a car they can love and form a sense of connection with, and it hasn't figured out how to do that with batteries yet.
"I guess what's more difficult for us to understand is that you buy a sports car because you want something really interactive, and emotional engagement, so we're still thinking about what would be the electric sports car offering," he said. "It's not clear to us yet."
The updated F-Type will begin arriving on dealer lots in early 2020 as a 2021 model, and we doubt Jaguar went through the trouble of updating the model inside and out to replace it with an all-new car a year later. It will likely remain in the company's portfolio through the early 2020s, so Thomson's team has time to shape the second-generation model, and study the market to decide whether there is a business case for an additional sports car, regardless of what form it takes.
— Ronan Glon