Good News, Bad News: Jaguar Land Rover Gets a Line on Cheap Aluminum; the C-X75 is Dead
In the way of politicians, Jaguar Land Rover chose to link the announcement of an imminent deal with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which should secure a supply of well-priced aluminum for its future cars, with the news that it has decided not to proceed with the C-X75 hybrid supercar.
Earlier this week, JLR chief executive Ralph Speth signed a letter of intent with Azzam Yaser Shalabi, the president of Saudi Arabia’s national industrial development program, with which it will form an automotive partnership for Saudi Arabia. It is envisaged that the world’s largest aluminum-production complex at Ras Al Khair, a joint venture between the Saudi Arabian Mining Company and Alcoa of the U.S., will supply aluminum sheet to JLR and the partnership will set up two press lines that will make finished aluminum components for Jaguars and Range Rovers.
In addition, a new vehicle will be produced for Middle-East markets. This will be an aluminum-bodied Land Rover model that is not planned for production in the U.K. The aluminum smelter is due to be in operation by 2014 and it’s anticipated that vehicle production could start a year or two after that.
JLR’s venture with Saudi Arabia was anticipated by a recent interview in India with Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Motors, JLR’s owner. Ratan Tata is a director of Alcoa and keen to expand Tata’s trading links with Saudi Arabia.
Aluminum production is notorious for requiring huge amounts of energy. Saudi Arabia has huge amounts of oil and gas, as well as bauxite, the necessary raw material for aluminum production. Ralph Speth sees a guaranteed supply of quality aluminum as vital to securing JLR’s future—all its future models will follow the lightweight-aluminum-construction blueprint laid out by the new Range Rover. He expects the motor industry’s demand for aluminum to increase rapidly in coming years and without such arrangements, JLR, as a relatively small player, could be faced with a shortage or damaging price escalation.
C-X75, We Hardly Knew Ye
Price and costs are the reasons for the cancellation of the Jaguar C-X75 hybrid supercar. That started as a pure concept at the Paris auto show in 2010 but in May 2011 it was announced that Jaguar would, in conjunction with Williams Formula 1, proceed to limited production. Earlier this year Jaguar showed some of the car’s advanced technology, including its ultra-high performance, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that is combined with an electric motor to develop a total of 900 hp, and its carbon-fiber chassis. The Coventry-based manufacturer predicted a 0-to-60-mph time of less than three seconds and accelerate to 100 quicker than a Bugatti Veyron, with exhaust emissions lower than a Toyota Prius. The plan was to build up to 200 cars, with a price somewhere north of $1.4 million.
- First Drive: 2013 Land Rover Range Rover
- Comparison Test: 2009 Cadillac CTS-V vs. 2010 Jaguar XFR, 2010 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG
- Instrumented Test: 2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
Adrian Hallmark, Jaguar global brand director, said that the company had decided not to proceed because it “didn’t feel comfortable launching a million-dollar supercar at a time of austerity.” JLR had seen “the competition struggling”—a reference to slow sales of the Porsche 918 hybrid—and had concluded that the C-X75 project would not make an adequate return on investment.
JLR is putting a brave face on this, its first reversal under Tata ownership. It has patented nearly 100 technologies included in the C-X75 and will use elements of its hybrid system in other production cars. Jaguar won’t sell the complete project but expects to offer two or three of the five C-X75 prototypes for sale at auction some time next year.
By Ray Hutton