Jaguar cars are known to be one of the more expensive and luxurious cars in the world. But do you ever wonder how they started and what are challenges they faced to become one of the iconic car brands that we know today?
The Birth of the Jaguar
Englishmen are known for their love of luxury that’s why William Lyons and William Walmsley created the Swallow Sidecar Company in 1922. They began as a sidecar business for motorcycles then after a year, they decided to shorten their name to SS Cars Ltd. And with their knowledge of metal fabrication skills they began to make body chassis for car manufacturers such as Fiat, Austin, and other famous automobile producers. In 1931, SS Cars Ltd. Partnered with Standard Motor Company to work on their first car, the SS1. It is a two-door sports car that was presented to the public at the 1931 London Motor Show and that was the beginning of another iconic and world-class British luxury sports manufacturing company.
The Rise and Fall of the Jaguar
Due to the impending World War II, the company returned to building sidecars for the military but they still managed to produce their first sports car since the SS1, the famous XK120. It is an open two-seater twin-cam straight-six engine with hand built aluminum bodies. After World War II, they changed their name to Jaguar Cars Limited to avoid negative connotation of name similarity to the SS troops of Nazi Germany. Jaguar also purchased Standard Motor Company and they started working on high-performance engines. Jaguar then released the XK140, it had more interior space than the XK120 and they upgraded the brakes, rack, and pinion steering and increased the suspension. It also had an open seater and a drophead version.
In 1957, Jaguar released the XK150, although it has a resemblance to the two previous versions, the XK150 was totally redesigned and it had no full weather equipment and it had minimal rear seats, and the split windshield was replaced by a one-piece windscreen. These vehicles were the key to their company’s success in producing performance-based luxury vehicles that were lower-priced than any of the competition. This was a stepping stone to enter the international motorsports market thus creating more attention for the company as a high-performance brand.
Jaguar also started building engines that accept three different octane fuel ratings, therefore giving consumers the option to save money on the cost of fuel or get as much horsepower as possible for the more sporty driving experience. The company faced inevitable financial issues and business started to decline. To get the company back on its feet, Jaguar sold the Motor Panels plant (a company they acquired back in the 1930s) and the money they acquired helped supported the company to get back on its feet. In 1966, Jaguar Motors merged with British Motor Corporation and formed British Motor Holdings which later became British Leyland Ltd. However, the union of the two companies did not turn out as well as hoped and by 1975, the companies separated and Jaguar became a public company and again ran into financial difficulties. Part of the challenge for Jaguar was the overall quality and features of the vehicles weren’t competitive in the marketplace. Sir William Lyons decided to retire and the CEO position was filled by Sir John Egan who led the company to private ownership in 1984. Sir John Egan laid-off more than 10,000 employees to cut overall costs and keep the company up and running. Unfortunately, by 1989 the company was again in trouble and Ford Motors made an offer to buy Jaguar.
The Jaguar Reborn
Jaguar accepted Ford’s offers and in 1989 as part of Ford Motors began to push to acquire auto manufacturers for the company’s Premiere Automotive Group which included Volvo Cars, Land Rover, and Aston Martin. Jaguar still did not make a profit under the management of Ford Motors. Ford then combined Land Rover and Jaguar to form Jaguar Land Rover. But in 2009, Ford decided to sell Jaguar and Land Rover to a company named Tata Motors for 2.3 billion U.S dollars. Although now owned by an Indian company, Jaguar’s home was kept in Whitley, England. It now has 10,000 employees and sales have steadily grown. The brand now continues to see strong growth in North America, Russia, and China. Today, Jaguar is still working to gain market share and lags other luxury brands such as BMW, Mercedes, and Lexus but has stabilized and seen strong growth.