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Auto blogTue, 25 Sep 2012 16:30:00 EST
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.
At the Goodwood Festival of Speed this past weekend, Land Rover previewed its upcoming performance version of the Range Rover Sport. Only instead of wearing the R-S badge that adorns the most hardcore of Jaguar models, the performance SUV from JLR's Special Operations unit introduced the letters SVR. And now, it seems that badge is here to stay.
Following the Range Rover Sport SVR, a new report from Motor Authority now says that Jaguar Land Rover will use those letters to distinguish the top-of-the-line performance models from both marques moving forward. As such, we might expect SVR models of the upcoming Jaguar XE compact sedan and Land Rover Discovery Sport, as well as potential new performance models based on the new F-Type and next-generation XF.
If accurate, the move would seem to separate Jaguar in particular from the R-S badge that has adorned performance models like the XFR-S and XKR-S. Both Audi and Porsche use the letters RS to distinguish its most hardcore models as well (e.g. Audi RS7 Sportback and Porsche 911 GT3 RS). Whether the similarity was a factor in shifting to the SVR moniker, we don't know, but either way, we welcome the arrival of a new generation of Jaguar and Land Rover performance models - especially if they pack the 575-horsepower version of the company's ubiquitous 5.0-liter supercharged V8. Not incidentally, that delicious powerplant gained a couple of new engine bays to call home at Goodwood as well - it's not just found in the forthcoming Range Rover Sport SVR, it's found a home in the F-Type Project 7, too.
Brazil is the place to be, apparently. Toyota has been investing in the South American country, as has BMW, which announced a $261 million investment in October 2012, on the heels of an Audi factory announcement in San José Chiapa. The high-end immigration is only set to continue, as Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar-Land Rover have both announced plans to set up manufacturing operations there.
Mercedes is the big news here, as its new facility will see the German manufacturer invest 170-million euros for production of its next-generation C-Class and upcoming GLA-Class. "Brazil is an important future market. With our local production we accept the challenge and take on the competition," noted Andreas Renschler, Management Board member for Production and Procurement at Mercedes-Benz Cars and Mercedes-Benz Vans. Production is expected to begin by 2016.
Jaguar-Land Rover, meanwhile, isn't so concrete in its plans. The news of its investment in South America comes from a job posting for a plant quality manager in Brazil that was picked up by the UK's AutoCar. "Portuguese language skills will be definite advantage" for interested candidates, according to the job listing. The want ad follows on the heels of remarks by Jaguar Land Rover's Dr. Ralph Speth, who said there are "very intensive discussions" with Brazil's government. Unlike Mercedes, there's no mention of which vehicles will be produced in South America, although AutoCar thinks the Freelander, sold in the US as the LR2, is a leading contender.