Jaguar cancels C-X75 production and why this is ‘good news’ for JLR’s future

The official reason given for this morning’s announcement is that Jaguar’s US$1 million C-X75 supercar no longer fits with global economic conditions, but there’s more to Jaguar’s decision than this, which will no doubt have a significant impact on future hybrid-electric sports cars.

In its statement the company said, “Jaguar Land Rover has suspended its plans for the production of the Jaguar C-X75 hybrid supercar. After a thorough re-assessment of near-term market conditions, the company’s view is that the global economic landscape does not currently support the introduction of a supercar such as C-X75. Cutting-edge hybrid technologies, carbon composite materials and advanced design solutions pioneered for the C-X75 in association with Williams Advanced Engineering will be utilised in other areas of R&D, innovative future products and next-generation engineering for the Jaguar and Land Rover brands.”

Of the five electric supercars we looked at for September’s Paris Motor Show edition of Green Car Design Magazine (Jaguar C-X75, Porsche 918 Spider, Ferrari F70, Audi R8 e-tron and BMW i8), two of the most ambitious have now been cancelled, with the remainder (barring BMW’s i8) being more an evolution of the current supercar formula – with KERS-based energy recovery systems used to reduce fuel consumption and boost performance, much in the same way as Formula One and LMP Endurance racing cars have done for several years.

Jaguar’s powertrain for the C-X75 was perhaps the most ambitious of the lot. Announced at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, it combined four electric motors with two diesel-fed micro gas turbines to produce around 770bhp. By the time production was signed-off in May 2011, the gas turbines had become a turbocharged 1.6-litre four cylinder engine and despite the interest of 100 potential customers, it was always likely to be an uphill battle to justify the car’s £700,000+ (US$1.15 million) price tag with such conventionally sounding powerplant.

But it’s not just the economic climate that Jaguar would need to overcome, in KPMG’s 2012 Global Automotive Executive Survey of 200 senior automotive executives it found that 65 percent see hybrids as the best mid-term solution for alternative powertrains, with 20 percent believing that fuel cells will attract more consumer demand by 2025 than battery electric cars. Perhaps more telling is the belief that electrified vehicles will represent less than 15 percent of annual global new car registrations by 2025 – so as an R&D platform, the longer-term value of Jaguar’s C-X75 programme has already beginning to decline.

Unlike the other brands, Jaguar remain a minnow in the luxury car sector, with a market cap of around US$14 billion on 50,000 cars, and a planned capex of $2.4 billion over the next five years. While JLR’s parent company, Tata Motors will continue to fund this investment through internal cash accruals, it is considering other options including an IPO – which would take advantage of the upswing in JLR’s fortunes following the market’s warm reception to the new F-TYPE and Range Rover.

A £700,000 state-of-the-art hypercar would only serve to distract from this endeavour, diverting much needed investment away from this expansion programme and confuse investors over its ultimate goal.

The company added, “Five C-X75 prototypes will be finalised and continue to undergo a programme of research and development evaluation and testing. JLR and its project partners – especially Williams – will remain in consultation and are actively investigating ways to expand co-operation and technical development.”

Sense has prevailed, and for that we should be thankful. While a halo supercar would demonstrate Jaguar’s ambition and the potential for its brand, the car maker has already built up plenty of goodwill and demand for a product range that gets better (and more competitive) with each release.

China is set to become the car maker’s second biggest market (behind the US) and its joint venture with China’s Chery Auto will need the company’s considerable investment and focus, if it is to deliver the obvious potential.

Now is the time to harvest that potential, there’ll be opportunity to celebrate Jaguar’s success once the hard-work has been done (with perhaps a C-X75 like supercar). In the meantime we’ve got a future XK to look forward to, and the revitalised XF and newly launched F-TYPE to enjoy.

Adrian Hallmark, Jaguar Global Brand Director added in today’s statement, “Project C-X75 has already broken many new barriers in terms of innovation and advanced technologies. We have achieved an incredible amount and will continue to test and develop these technologies, which are highly relevant to JLR’s sustainable future. We remain committed to significant on-going new product investment – £2bn in this financial year – which will continue to drive the expansion of the JLR business”.