JLR’s survival bid: five new cars in two years

New Defender, Mk5 Range Rover, Road Rover, J-Pace and electric XJ are planned

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has embarked on a two-year programme of new vehicle launches and massive industrial investments designed to transform the company’s financial fortunes and put it on a long-term, stable footing.

All electric 2021 Jaguar XJ

All electric 2021 Jaguar XJ

As well as three entirely new model lines – the new Defender family, the luxury Jaguar J-Pace SUV and a new Range Rover crossover – JLR engineers are replacing the XJ with an electric super-saloon next year and creating a new version of the evergreen Range Rover by 2022.

All of these new models will be built on JLR’s brand-new ‘flex’ MLA architecture, which offers mild- and plug-in hybrid drivetrains as well as a pure- electric option.

According to official company documents, there will also be an all-electric Range Rover model and an all-electric Discovery model before 2025. There are no plans for an all-electric Defender spin-off, though.

The internal-combustion models sold by all of Land Rover’s three so-called ‘brand pillars’ – Range Rover, Discovery and Defender – will be available in only mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid forms by 2025.

Drive-My can also reveal the MLA-based models will have a new SOTA (software over the air) capability, with 14 ‘modules’ in the vehicle’s electrical architecture that are connected to the internet.

JLR says the new SOTA set-up will allow it to reduce warranty claims, avoid the need for some recalls, offer predictive servicing and even user-based insurance. Over- the-air feature upgrades for MLA models are also being

planned, as well as “in-vehicle rewards and payments”. JLR is hoping to use data generated by real-world use of the new vehicles to inform future model development, too.

The first all-new JLR model is the Defender, which will arrive later this year and be made at the new Nitra plant in Slovakia. This is a challenging project for the British car maker because it is a new model, based on a new architecture and built in a new factory with a relatively new workforce.

But as Drive-My’s scoops have revealed, the new three- model Defender range has huge potential in the lucrative market for premium family SUVs.

The electric XJ, first reported by Drive-My in 2015, replaces the outgoing XJ saloon, which has just ended a decade-long production run at the Castle Bromwich plant near Birmingham.

The new model – due in around 12 months – is expected to be an unashamed super-luxury car in the mould of more expensive Mercedes-Benz S-Class variants (setting it well apart from the aging Tesla Model S), while also being more driver orientated.

JLR will be hoping that the XJ steals a march on premium EV rivals, offering a zero-emission luxury vehicle that’s ideal for East Asian mega-cities. Later on, plug-in petrol-electric versions of the XJ will be launched.

Next up at the remodelled Castle Bromwich plant will be the Jaguar J-Pace, which will be larger and more upmarket than the F-Pace. The J-Pace is also expected to be offered as a pure EV and is unlikely to be made public until early 2021.

The upcoming fifth member of the Range Rover family, due in late 2021 and scooped by Drive-My in 2017, is also based on the MLA platform. It’s described on JLR documents as a “medium SUV” and is expected to sit between the Evoque and Velar.

It will be more road orientated and its smaller frontal area will ensure it will be the most economical member of the Range Rover family as well as the first all-electric Range Rover. Despite JLR registering the historic Road Rover nameplate, there’s no news on what name the showroom version will take.

Initially, there was some surprise in the car industry that the under-utilised Castle Bromwich plant is to receive significant investment to convert it to build JLR’s MLA platform. Last week, however, it was revealed that JLR had received a loan guarantee from the UK government for half a billion pounds.

The money is expected to help not only the conversion of Castle Bromwich but also planned investments in a new battery factory at Hams Hall, east of Birmingham, and the manufacture of electric motors in the UK.

JLR has already announced that it is teaming up with BMW to develop next-generation electric drive units (EDUs) for future electrified vehicles. JLR will make the EDUs at its Wolverhampton engine plant, which, the company says, will be able to switch seamlessly from making the Ingenium petrol and diesel engines to building the EDUs.

Recently, JLR boss Ralf Speth said the battery makes up 40% of the cost of an EV and that locally built battery packs for UK-made vehicles is an economic necessity. Unless battery production is secured for the UK, Speth predicted, the UK car industry will see production moving overseas.

Although JLR is clearly executing an ambitious and very promising product plan over the next 12 to 24 months, it has plenty of issues to deal with in the near term, with sales of existing models continuing to slide. In the first four months of 2019, Jaguar sales fell 11% and Land Rover sales dropped 13% compared with the same period in 2018.

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