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Jaguar-Land Rover North America's Andy Goss.

Long known for its powerful but gas-guzzling V-8s and V-12s, Jaguar is moving quickly on the development of more fuel-efficient small displacement engines as prepares to challenge its bigger luxury rivals, the maker’s chief U.S. executive said  during an appearance at the Chicago Auto Show.

Andrew Goss, president of Jaguar-Land Rover of North America, also said the company was working on the development of diesel engines and hybrid powertrains, which will help bolster the company’s fuel-economy record.

The development of the more fuel-efficient technologies is part of the British maker’s long-range plan to compete on all fronts with highly successful German brands such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi around the world and Lexus in the United States. “We are determined to make Jaguar a much more significant player in the luxury market,” he said during the Chicago Auto Show’s keynote session.

The new Jaguar F-Type.

Goss also indicated, while stopping short of an outright confirmation, that Jaguar is working on a smaller, entry-level model to compete with cars such as the new Mercedes-Benz CLA and the Audi A3. However, he said he wasn’t prepared to discuss a timetable for introduction of the entry-level model.

Long known for striking designs, like the legendary E-Type, powered by large-displacement engines, part of Jaguar’s strategy is to move away from those V-8s and V-12s and equip its cars with more efficient alternatives – while also adding all-wheel drive , a technology Jaguar now believes is crucial to its success in the U.S. market.

A new all-wheel drive system was introduced on the 2013 XF and XJ ranges, which will be powered exclusively by Jaguar’s new 3.0-liter V-6 Supercharged gasoline engine. It may be smaller, but it still delivers 340 horsepower. The AWD models are available in selected markets notably the northern half of the United States where all-wheel-drive as become a “must-have” feature for luxury vehicles, Goss stressed.

“All-wheel-drive is critical to being competitive,” said Goss, noting the new models will be displayed in Chicago for the first time this year. Industry experts note that in some markets, including the Windy City, it is becoming all but impossible to sell luxury products that don’t offer the high-traction technology.

Goss also said the new Jaguar F-Type is creating increased interest in the brand. “We have more than 26,000 hand raisers and 85% of them are new to the Jaguar brand,” he said, with clear excitement.

In addition, the average age of potential customers seeking information about the new sports car — which is being billed as the E-Type’s long-awaited successor — is 46, or about 10 years younger than the current Jaguar buyer.

Goss said the shift in profile conforms to what Land Rover saw with the successful launch of its Range Rover Evoque, which helped drive upcombined Jaguar-Land Rover sales by 30% last year.

“It’s the most important car Jaguar has launched in decades,” Goss said of the F-Type.

As previously reported, Jaguar-Land Rover has an ambitious product development program underway, funded by its Indian owner Tata Motors. But the program appears to be fluid as the British carmaker and its SUV sibling search for the sweet spots in an evolving luxury market. While it is considering a new compact model it recently confirmed that the $1 million plug-in hybrid supercar, the CX75, has been scrapped.

There has been a major shift in the internal corporate culture since Ratan Tata acquired both Jaguar and Land Rover from the Ford Motor Co. back in 2008, Goss noted. Of course, it helps that Jaguar-Land Rover has been profitable for the past two and a half years.

“We get to keep what we earn,” he said. However, there is no demand for unsustainable returns on Tata’s original investment. “There is more of an emphasis on long-term thinking,” added Goss, noting the future plans for the company include development of new technology, rebuilding the company’s dealer network and adding capacity to meet the demand from such emerging luxury markets as China.


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