understands the value of timing. After a successful career with
Mercedes-Benz, he reached Chrysler at exactly the wrong time as
DaimlerChrysler collapsed and then-owner Cerberus Capital Management
was overwhelmed. He became the public face of falling sales,
ballooning inventories and a near-revolt by dealers. As Jaguar Land
Roverís new U.S. boss, since December heís in time to catch a
wave of promising new vehicles.
an easy decision to join Jaguar Land Rover," Eberhardt told me,
sitting at a table on the Jaguar Land Rover stand in Cobo Center
during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
"Theyíre two of the most iconic and historic brands in the
once appeared to have a brighter past than future, but both have
flourished since Indian conglomerate Tata bought them from Ford in
2008. New vehicles, engines, transmissions and all-wheel drive
systems have made Jaguar and Land Rover appealing to a broader
audience than ever before, and some of the most dramatic moves are
yet to come.
brands with strong images but smaller product lines than their
competitors, Jag and Land Rover are in a unique position to grow as
they add vehicles in new market segments. While established brands
like Mercedes-Benz and BMW stretch their brand images to include
models like the front-wheel drive CLA250 and minivan-like 2-series
Active Tourer, Jaguar and Land Rover can gain sales with new
vehicles in the heart of the luxury market.
a lot of opportunity," Eberhardt told me, adding that the
brands need to introduce new vehicles that are consistent with their
image and heritage. "We have to preserve what makes Jaguar and
Land Rover special. The goal is carefully managed growth."
The next step
comes when Jaguar unveils its eagerly awaited compact sport sedan at
the Paris auto show in October. Called the XE, the car uses a new
platform that will underpin several Jag and Land Rover models. The
XE will also introduce a new family of four-cylinder gasoline
engines both brands will use.
The XE should
be about the same size as the BMW 3-series and Cadillac ATS. It goes
on sale in Europe in 2015 and the U.S. in 2016. Itíll be the first
Jaguar sold in the U.S. with a diesel engine.
re-entering market segments where it played for decades with models
like the little F-type roadster that went on sale last year ó a
coupe follows this spring ó and the XE.
question of heritage," Eberhardt said. "Clearly, the
compact sport sedan is an area where Jaguar has a rich
history." The XE will build on the looks of the crossover C-X17
Jag may build
a crossover, but thereís an argument for maintaining the
distinction that Jag is a car brand and Land Rover makes ritzy SUVs.
luxury automakers cover the whole spectrum from compact car to large
SUV with a single brand," Eberhardt said. "With two
brands, we can cover it without distorting either oneís
WHO LOST THE
DRIP RAIL? After my column on the disappearance of the drip rail,
the rooftop gutter that used to keep water and snow from pouring
into the passenger compartment when you open a door, I got a couple
of notes about vehicles that abandoned the feature earlier than I
went after the drip rail in 1974 and the results hit the road in
1979, longtime GM designer Dick Ruzzin points out.
effort to eliminate the drip rails Ö was unrelenting," Ruzzin
wrote to me. "No drip rail was the best by far for drag and
far-reaching project included tests in a Lockheed wind tunnel. It
led to GMís revolutionary X-cars, including the Chevrolet
While the 1986
Ford Taurus got lots of attention when it went on sale, reader Jim
Frame from Asheville, N.C., points out that the 1986 Honda Accord
hit the road at the same time without drip rails.