Jaguar have taken the wraps off its new flagship XJ luxury saloon which is to be built at the company’s Castle Bromwich plant in Birmingham.
The car, seen as a vital element of the besieged manufacturer’s long-term future, was unveiled in front of business figures and celebrities at a glitzy event at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea.
The unveiling was hosted by United States chat show host Jay Leno, a renowned car enthusiast.
The all-new car is expected to go on sale this year at prices starting at £52,500 and topping out at £88,000.
Hopes are riding high within the loss-making company that the new XJ will be as successful as the mid-range XF saloon which was launched in March 2008.
The XF, also built at Castle Bromwich, has been responsible for reversing years of falling sales for Jaguar – which with its sister company Land Rover was making a profit for its Indian parent group, Tata Motors, until recession struck in the second half of last year.
Tata said last month that JLR had incurred a loss of £281 million in the ten months to March 2009 and has warned that one of its three assembly plants – Castle Bromwich and Solihull in the West Midlands and Halewood on Merseyside – could close.
But last night Jaguar was in party mood as it showed off its new car.
“These are truly exciting times for us at Jaguar,” Jaguar Cars managing director Mike O’Driscoll said.
“The new XJ is truly beautiful, exhilarating to drive, and with its bold, enlightened approach to design, it meets the challenges of our fast-changing world.
“It re-imagines the ultimate sporting luxury car.”
Advance orders over the coming weeks will, Jaguar hopes, bear out JLR manufacturing director Paul Cope’s boast at a Solihull Chamber of Commerce lunch in January that the XJ would leave its rivals “with all the appeal of yesterday’s cold potatoes”.
Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya, head of Warwick Manufacturing Group and an adviser to Tata, said the new car was an important new example of British automotive engineering. It is a brilliant car. It just shows what British technology can achieve,” he said.
The XJ, like the XF, can compete with the “best in the world” and is a “signal to the country as to how important the survival of product development and technology is”, Prof Bhattacharyya added.
Eric Wallbank, an automotive industry analyst at Ernst & Young in Birmingham, said the high margins inherent in a luxury car such as the XJ were important to Jaguar. “It won’t be the biggest seller but the contribution it will make to the profits of the business will be very significant.”
The aluminium-bodied XJ is being built in a long and short wheelbase both of which incorporate an innovative panoramic glass roof. Its V6 diesel and V8 petrol engines are rated as among the cleanest and most fuel-efficient in the world.