Julian Thomson’s abrupt departure from Jaguar’s biggest design work is both surprising and predictable.
When in 2019 he finally took the design director appointment, succeeding Ian Callum with whom he had served for two decades as a loyal, willful, and slightly maverick lieutenant, Thomson finally seemed to have his deserts – the chance to accelerate and even radicalize the excellent work that the couple had accomplished together.
But at the end of the year, that plan abruptly changed when former Land Rover Design Director Gerry McGovern was promoted to a group design role, competently on Jaguar and Land design. Rover. The clear authority Callum had enjoyed at Jaguar was simply not there.
As McGovern himself explained at the time, former Jaguar Land Rover CEO Sir Ralf Speth had wanted the design functions of the two brands to be separated. But his replacement, Thierry Bolloré, prefers to have a global design boss, in effect to prevent the two wings of his empire from wanting to do the same thing.
Although Jaguar’s most successful recent models have been SUVs, Bolloré believes that Land Rover is the only SUV specialist, not Jaguar. And it is possible to see the validity of such an argument, too, if Jaguar is allowed to be even more different and even more special.
However, it’s also easy to see how Thomson (and we have no indication of that) might have thought that much of his challenge had been unceremoniously taken away – he was, after all, heavily involved in the sedan. luxury electric XJ which will now be. never appear – and that much of his freedom to operate was gone at the same time.
One thing is certain: Thomson’s departure is likely to put further pressure on the McGovern-Bolloré design structure. If they fail Jaguar’s daring electric vehicle mission, create a much smaller lineup of more premium-only electric-only Jags by 2025 – and make them profitable – then create conditions that forced a man good to go out will look like a big, brand threatening error.
The fascination will now be to see where Thomson presents himself. He is an excellent team leader and a radical thinker. It remains a property in vogue as a designer. Besides his contribution to many progressive Jaguars of the 1990s and 2000s, he has two other notable car models to his credit: the Lotus Elise and the Land Rover LRX Concept, which would go into production as the Range Rover Evoque.
Both were produced by small teams led in the most practical way possible by Thomson himself. Both have changed the fortunes of their business. Both turn into great classics. In the case of the Evoque, people still find it remarkable that a model could be created so successfully to fill a “ white space ” that few people even knew was there.
Considering all this, it seems vital to us, for the progress of the car as much as for the flourishing of the designer, that Thomson very soon finds a powerful design gig where he will once again have true 24-carat freedom.
Jaguar Design Director Julian Thomson to leave the company this month
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Exclusive: Gerry McGovern lifts the veil on future Jaguars
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This notice was published: 2021-05-07 09:43:03