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Auto blogWed, 25 Sep 2013 18:01:00 EST
The success of Jaguar Land Rover in recent years has largely been down to a resurgent product lineup, but a recent move into the research and development will see the British-based, Indian-owned brands take the fight to its German rivals more aggressively than ever before.
JLR is investing 50 million pounds ($80,345,000, as of this writing) in a joint R&D center in central England. The move will more than triple its staff dedicated to research, from 150 to 500, with Wolfgang Epple, JLR's Director of Research and Technology telling Automotive News Europe, "In order to play among the big animals in automotive and to be anchored in the mind of customers you have to have offered something unique, to be first in market. We want to be one of the key premier automotive manufacturers."
Jaguar Land Rover's 50-million-pound contribution represents more than half of the 94-million-pound tab, on the so-called National Automotive Innovation Campus. Based at Warwick University, Tata's European Technical Center, Warwick Manufacturing Group and the Higher Education Funding Council, an agency of the British government, are all chipping in for the facility.
Jaguar-Land Rover is not what you'd call a volume automaker by any stretch of the imagination. But in the dozen years since it started manufacturing at its Halewood plant near Liverpool, England, the automaker has already built its millionth vehicle.
The landmark vehicle is a Range Rover Evoque, done up in white with red roof and mirrors, black wheels and a red and black interior. The crossover is set to be donated to Cancer Research UK, which will auction it off next year to help fund its projects in the north-west of the country.
Halewood started manufacturing the Jaguar X-Type in 2001, then went on to assemble the Land Rover LR2 / Freelander 2 before taking on production of the Evoque a year and a half ago. The facility reached the 300,000-unit milestone just last year as production moved to a 24-hour cycle for the first time in either marque's history.
It's hard to think back now, but the same man overseeing the design of the 2013 Ford Fusion also presided over a rather lackluster period in Ford design, highlighted by vehicles like the Five Hundred and Freestyle. With the redesigned Fusion receiving high praise, J Mays tells Automotive News that he feels vindicated from criticisms suggesting he's not a daring enough designer.
When Mays took over as lead of design in 1997, he admits to having quite an ego ("My head would barely fit through the door some days. I've long since gotten over myself") and the workload to match. With the Blue Oval's portfolio full of premium brands like Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo at that point, along with the bread-and-butter Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models, Mays certainly had quite the challenge.
It was in the mid-2000s that Mays took over just the premium brands, and took on the new title of Chief Creative Officer. At the time, Mays endured some criticism for looking backwards to retro styling, rather than setting a new standard for American car design - criticism that Mays says he is free from with the all-new Fusion.