According to figures from London-based analyst ISI Auto, the global market for compact premium cars is currently dominated by the three German premium brands. Between them, the BMW 3-series family, Mercedes-Benz C-class and Audi A4 are expected to sell 1.15 million units next year, the majority of the total market segment sales of 1.3 million.
These figures show the huge uphill struggle that has faced Japanese premium brands Lexus and Infiniti, but they also provide hope for Jaguar. While Japanese brands and Cadillac could account for just 147,000 sales globally next year in this segment, Jaguar’s arrival in 2015 could finally shake it up.
If Jaguar could steal just five per cent of sales, it would hit 80,000 units for the new saloon and estate. In the medium term, Jaguar could also launch a compact coupé, which could edge the road car family towards six-figure sales. Of course, X761, the Jaguar SUV — which, in production form, will be sized to compete with the BMW X3 and X4 — will add further volume.
Bernstein analysts think that X761 should achieve sales of about 50,000 units per year. That would mean total production volumes of 130,000 for small Jaguars in the medium term. Adding the Evoque XL, at 80,000 units, would give the new Solihull production line healthy annual output of over 200,000 units.
The longer-term aims for the small Jaguar are enhanced by ISI Auto estimates, which suggest that the global compact premium market will increase by another 400,000 units by 2020 to 1.7 million units, a 30 per cent rise on the expected 2014 total.
This sector is both ultra-competitive and dominated by three well established German rivals. However, Jaguar bosses think that they will hit their sales targets because of three major engineering advantages.
First, the compact Jaguar will be made entirely of aluminium, giving it a decisive lead in weight saving. Second, the rear-drive running gear has been designed from scratch to allow the Jaguar to be given extremely precise handling characteristics. Third, the Jaguars will be launched with a new range of JLR-designed, state-of-the-art, powerful and super-frugal engines.
The compact Jaguar could hardly be better prepared for breaking into the compact premium market. The only possible variable is the styling, but Jaguar design director Ian Callum and his team are pushing at an open door, considering the relative conservatism and familiarity of the current 3-series.
X760 is set to arrive in early 2015 (after appearing in showroom guise at the Paris show in September next year), which will be around the same time as the all-new C-class and shortly before the new A4.
The estate is expected in early 2016, followed a short time later by the SUV. If the X760 project goes well, a two-door coupé version could be in showrooms in 2018, around the same time as the saloon will get a light refresh.
Senior JLR engineers have told Autocar that the compact Jaguar will have an emphasis on handling, following in the footsteps of the more focused F-type and recent racier versions of the XF.
The combination of details such as aluminium suspension components and a very stiff aluminium structure (which is both riveted and bonded) provide, on paper, an ideal basis for a car that is more driver focused than the 3-series and more technically advanced than the A4.