There’s a prominent theme of aggression going on in the world of car design right now. A lot of this is focused on the front ends of premium vehicles, which are featuring ever-sharper lines and increasingly ridiculous grilles.
To get some sense of why this is happening and if Jaguar will soon be jumping on the bandwagon, we spoke to the company’s new Director of Design Julian Thomson, who took over from Ian Callum last year, at the launch of the 2020 F-Type.
The answer, as you might expect, lies in China. Although the market over there is showing signs of stalling, it’s been a huge area of growth for manufactures in recent years, leading many companies to develop “future design languages with a big consideration towards China,” Thomson said.
“China’s a first generation of car owners, or second-generation now, and they have been quite brand obsessed, [but] not knowing what brand was what,” he went on, adding, “So a lot of manufacturers have reacted to this by doing very strong faces on their cars, just to get known”.
Thomson doesn’t seem awfully keen on the direction this has taken a lot of brands. “I feel some of our competitors have gone really overboard in trying to overemphasise the brand, the face of the car, and in a fairly crude manner in a lot of cases”.
In a design presentation the night before our interview with Thomson, he referred to rival firms “doing faces only a mother could love”. Jaguar, however, won’t ever “torture the metal” in this way, he pledges.
Like its competitors, Jaguar still needs to be distinctive to successfully tap into the Chinese market, but it intends to do so in a different way. “Premium brands like ourselves do need to have design languages that are much more cohesive and recognisable, but at Jaguar we’re not going to be funky, we’re not going to do these big faces…we’ve really got to make sure Jaguar has some real integrity and civility about it”.
And so it goes with the new F-Type. Yes, the front end is perhaps more attention-grabbing than before, and the grille is noticeably bigger. Thomson said it’s as big as Jaguar wants to go for now, “but ask me again in a few years!”