Building the Jaguar S-Type
A Jaguar case study

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Page 1: Introduction

Jaguar 5 Image 2The background to Jaguar provides a good example of entrepreneurship - identifying opportunities, creating a winning formula and responding to consumer needs to build a highly successful company.

The Jaguar story is one of 'rags to riches'. In 1922, at the age of 20, a young motorcycle enthusiast called Bill Lyons met William Walmsley in Blackpool. Walmsley was building a stylish sidecar to attach to a reconditioned motor cycle.

Bill Lyons saw this as an opportunity to create a winning formula - combining style, elegance and quality, with scale production. He set up the Swallow Sidecar Company, with a bank overdraft of £1,000. In 1927, Herbert Austin introduced his baby car, the famous Austin Seven. Intended to bring motoring to the masses, the tiny Sevens were cheap, easy to drive and reliable but lacked individuality. Here, Lyons recognised another opportunity. He created a stylish two-seater body that was mounted onto the Austin Seven chassis - the new Austin Seven Swallow proved highly popular.

From then on, there was no looking back. With the sales of the cars and sidecars continuing to increase, the company decided to move to the Midlands, traditional heartland of the British motor industry. At the start of the 1930s, Lyons took another bold step - creating a new chassis to Swallow’s designs and arranging for the Standard Motor Company to build the chassis. The SS Coupes were duly presented at the 1931 London Motor show and created a sensation with their extra low bodies and outrageously long bonnets.

In 1935, the 'Jaguar' name entered the scene for the first time with a completely new saloon and sports car range. By now the cars had much more powerful engines, new body styles and offered four doors for the first time. It therefore made sense to launch the new model under a new name - hence the birth of the SS Jaguar. After the War, the letters SS were dropped and the Jaguar name went on to gain the prestige and quality with which it is associated today.

Over the years, there have been many different Jaguars - the famous 'C',  'D' and 'E' types, coupes, saloons, four-seater sports cars. In later years, however, they became prestige, luxury cars aimed at the top of the market. Although Jaguar had a fine range of products, the company realised by the end of the 1980s, that it would need the backing of one of the 'automotive giants' in order to meet future challenges. In late 1989, after careful research and detailed negotiations, Ford became the new owners of Jaguar Cars. The agreed plans for Jaguar’s future recognised the integrity of the Jaguar marque and stipulated that Jaguar was to retain its strong, individual brand identity.

In the early 1990s, world recession forced Jaguar to engage in a process of reconstruction. The labour force was reduced through planned retirements and voluntary redundancies and the company carried out a process of quality improvement and technical change. By the middle of the 1990s, Jaguar was confident enough to launch a range of new prestige models including the XK8 - Jaguar’s first new sports car for a generation. Early in 1998, Jaguar announced that the mid-sized Jaguar S-Type sports saloon (code named X200), would make its world debut at the Birmingham International Motor Show and that the Jaguar S-Type would be in full production by 1999.

In modern competitive markets it is essential for businesses to be able to innovate. It has been argued that for a large business organisation 'not to innovate is to die'. Modern production depends on the combination of many factors such as research and development, production engineering, investment in plant and people, as well as the effective use of technology. Few industries have experienced quite as much change in recent years as that of the motor industry.

In focusing on one of the most exciting industrial regeneration projects in this country in recent years, this case study examines how Jaguar has reconstructed a factory at Castle Bromwich in Birmingham to build its new Jaguar S-Type range.

Jaguar | Building the Jaguar S-Type