Jaguar will today formally unveil the new sports car which it hopes will spearhead "a brighter future" amid plummeting sales and renewed uncertainty over its long term future.

The new XK coupe will take its bow at the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany after a torrid month for the Midland carmaker.

The firm, which employs 6,000 at its sites across the region, announced 400 administrative posts would be axed by the end of the year, while sales in August slipped below even the level of now defunct MG Rover.

But Phil Popham, Jaguar's UK managing director, said the new XK heralded a brighter future for the firm, while adding there were no further job cuts planned.

Production of the car is due to begin at the Castle Bromwich factory in January, with the first models hitting the dealers next spring.

He said: "This car is very important for the company. Jaguar has gone through a difficult time in terms of public relations, especially with the cessation of manufacturing at Browns Lane.

"This is a great opportunity to put the company in a positive light. We are replacing one excellent car with another that will signify Jaguar in the future in terms of specification and handling. It is an indicator of a bright future for the company. There are no further redundancies planned." Mr Popham said the company was looking to add new customers to the existing XK buyers who would be planning to replace their cars.

He said: "It will be aimed at anybody who is wanting something new, exciting and exotic. There are a lot of people in this segment who want a new car like this as an additional vehicle."

Mr Popham said he hoped the new car would appeal to more people than the XK, which sold between 1,500 and 2,000 cars a year during its heyday.

He added the new car would also appeal to a new, younger audience, as well as the established buyers.

Part of this strategy will be to increase sales in the US, where a convertible version will be exhibited at the Detroit Motor Show in January.

But with oil prices escalating in recent weeks, many industry analysts have warned that the days of the gas guzzling performance cars and SUVs could be numbered.

Mr Popham said the new car, which was 90kg lighter than its predecessor was much more fuel efficient.

He added: "Because of our use of technology and aluminium, we have made the car much lighter, which means its miles per gallon is better."

Mr Popham said Jaguar would also look at hybrid technology and other ways to improve fuel technology, even diesel.

"We will look at everything which improves the fuel efficiencyof the car. There are no plans at the moment to have a diesel model, there are no other cars in this sector which has it, but it is not beyond our engineering capability to produce a diesel version. If there is a demand for it, we will look into it."

Helped by its range of new diesels, including the diesel XJ and new 2.2 litre diesel Xtype which also go on sale at the show, Mr Popham said the firm was in a good position to recover sales. It was also seeking to increase sales into Asia, where it would be working under the banner of its parent company Ford, said Mr Popham.

He said: "Although our sales were down by 20 per cent in August, it was predictable.

" The worst performer was the XJ, but its sector which also features BMW 7 series and Audi A8 was also down as people sought to downsize.

"There has also been a move towards diesel, and we didn't have a diesel XJ until next month.

"It was only two years ago that we launched our first diesel car, and we have been lagging behind our competitors. But now we have diesel X-types, the S-type and now the diesel XJ.

"This is the strongest line up of cars we have ever had and I expect for the last four months of this year to exceed the sales of 2004.

"We have had a difficult first seven months, for reasons which are well documented, but we have put in actions to answer that."