Opinion: why Jaguar shouldn't bother with Formula E and just give us a new EV range | Top Gear
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Opinion: why Jaguar shouldn't bother with Formula E and just give us a new EV range

Jaguar joining the Formula E circus is for absolutely no good reason, says Paul Horrell

Published: 04 Apr 2023

Jaguar launched its 2023 Formula E effort recently. I went to the party. Well, I didn’t. I went to the press briefing beforehand and became so downcast I departed, no longer in a party mood. Having listened to the briefing and asked a few questions, I couldn’t see why Jaguar was bothering with Formula E at all. On the contrary, it might even be harmful to the brand’s future.

Why have a racing team when JLR is driving Jaguar into the ground? All the current range is on life support. No, that’s the wrong expression. These cars’ lives are not really being supported. All the combustion cars are getting older and the facelifts and updates are threadbare. That’s because they die soon: from 2025 Jaguar will be reinvented as a modern luxury electric-only brand.

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Fortunately there is a modern luxury electric-only car, the I-Pace. But it too has been abandoned. Which is odd because it’s delightful. It came out in 2018, before the Audi e-tron. The e-tron has since been given a choice of two battery sizes, two body styles and three power outputs. And then it had a facelift and more capacity for both those batteries and even a new name, Q8 e-tron. The Jaguar meantime remains one model. And that’s it.

Jaguar steadfastly refuses to give us clues about the upcoming range of cars, apart from the label ‘modern luxury’, and expensive, which means made in small numbers. We have no evidence Jaguar has the slightest idea how to do the part of ‘luxury’ that goes beyond the product, the edifice of ‘brand experience’ that makes customers feel special and strokes their egos.

I asked Jaguar’s executive director of product development Thomas Müller how many models Jaguar will build and what they’d be like, and however many times I rephrased the line of questioning he wouldn’t be specific. All he really said was an enigmatic, “You can’t compare the Jaguars with anything. They’ll be a copy of nothing. They won’t be stuck in the past". But then he said how much he enjoys driving the E-Type. Sorry, we all love it too but I really think leaning on that stuff will be Jaguar’s undoing. This company has spent too long remembering the rakish sports cars of old white men. It needs to move on.

There was lots of talk about Formula E being good for technology transfer. It teaches engineers to work fast, and it will give critical lessons about energy efficiency, battery software and thermal management, and high voltage electronics. Not component transfer to the road cars, but knowledge transfer.

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But the team shouldn’t have been called Jaguar. If they won’t talk of the road cars, the racecars will be all the world knows of Jaguar. And therefore the world might naturally assume that Jaguar isn’t about “modern electric luxury”, but instead bone-shaking carbon-fibre sports cars. Why not tell us a little about the new road cars – which despite the Formula E entry don’t even have ‘sporty’ in the new brand definition – so we don’t get the wrong end of the stick? It’s not like disclosure will harm sales of the current bunch. They’re moribund already.

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