Confirmed: The next Jaguar XJ will be electric-only, automaker says

Jaguar confirmed rumors that the next-gen XJ will be an EV, aiming to take on Tesla and others.

Jaguar confirmed late last week that the next-generation Jaguar XJ will be a battery electric model, following up on the I-Pace, which kicked off the Anglo-Indian automaker’s electric car range. The electric XJ, which has not been seen to date in any form, will go on sale next year and will be built at the brand’s Castle Bromwich plant in the U.K. The automaker dropped the news on the same day as the very last XJ of the current generation rolled off the assembly line.

We’ll say it again to let it sink in: The last gas-engine XJ rolled off the assembly line just days ago, and … that’s it for gas-engined XJ sedans.

Jaguar confirmed the next-gen XJ model amid a wider announcement about its electric car plans in the U.K., including the operational launch of a new Battery Assembly Center next year, which will have the capacity to produce 150,000 EV batteries. The all-new battery plant will work with the upgraded Castle Bromwich facility, which will produce the next-generation Modular Longitudinal Architecture, or MLA, that will be used with gasoline, diesel, hybrid and electric models produced by Jaguar and sister company Land Rover.

“The future of mobility is electric and, as a visionary British company, we are committed to making our next generation of zero-emission vehicles in the U.K.,” said Ralf Speth, chief executive officer of Jaguar Land Rover. “We are co-locating our electric vehicle manufacture, Electronic Drive Units and battery assembly to create a powerhouse of electrification in the Midlands.”

Rumors about an all-electric XJ sedan had circulated for a couple of years, along with talk of a switch to a wagon bodystyle for the Jaguar flagship (yes, really), but this is the first official confirmation of plans for an EV model.

This decision makes plenty of sense: The XJ has played a distant fifth or sixth fiddle to German and Japanese luxobarges when it comes to annual sales, so Jaguar can fully afford for its flagship luxury model to go battery electric at this point — it doesn’t have to make that many EV sedans to eclipse current sales levels. The last decade has also seen the limited viability of large electric luxury sedans, confirming some measure of a business case for the segment — the market has shown it will buy large EV sedans if they come with a Tesla badge, at the bare minimum. Taking the EV route with the XJ also makes sense from a standpoint of aiming for the audience of the next decade, when a number of luxury automakers are expected to field electric sedans. With China mandating a transition by edict to New Energy Vehicles in the next two decades, demand for electric sedans is guaranteed to exist in the Middle Kingdom, at the very least.

“Convenience and affordability are the two key enablers to drive the uptake of electric vehicles to the levels that we all need,” Speth added. “Charging should be as easy as refueling a conventional vehicle. Affordability will only be achieved if we make batteries here in the U.K., close to vehicle production, to avoid the cost and safety risk of importing from abroad. The U.K. has the raw materials, scientific research in our universities and an existing supplier base to put the U.K. at the leading edge of mobility and job creation.”

The switch to a BEV-only XJ model, whatever bodystyle it ends up adopting, is nevertheless an important bet for Jaguar Land Rover, which is going through another period of financial issues since being detached from Ford’s Premier Automotive Group in the late 2000s. Now owned by India-based industrial giant Tata, Jaguar Land Rover endured a particularly rocky 2018, losing $3.9 billion in a series of mostly internal re-evaluations of the value of its business. Slowing growth in China hasn’t helped, and neither did the industry’s continued turn away from diesel, something JLR bet heavily on in 2015, the same year the VW diesel crisis erupted.

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