With Jaguar already heavily invested in the electric car space with a factory-backed Formula E team to run alongside its I-Pace road car operations, Thomson has the not-so-easy task of redefining the 98-year-old brand for the all-electric era. “The likes of Mercedes, Audi and BMW have really turned up the wick on their identity over the last few years, as a result of going into China,” he says.
“Premium brands really do have to work very, very hard to establish their identity and their brand and their positioning... because that's what they've got left.
“Design language is really, really important. It's just not enough to say I've done a really cool looking car, because there are some very credible designers working in Chinese companies now, and American start-ups doing very, very good work.”
Fending off competition from the Far East is not a new phenomenon for premium carmakers but an increasingly difficult challenge, with many leaving the established European marques for posts with newcomer carmakers. In 2018, Wayne Burgess, one of Jaguar's long-standing designers left to set up the UK Design and Innovation Studio for Chinese car giant Geely. With brands like Volvo, Polestar, Lotus and the makers of the new London taxi under its belt, the Chinese car group is hot on the heels of the automotive aristocracy.
“Going forward, we have really, really got to make people understand what a Jaguar is, what it looks like, and what it stands for. So, in terms of the way that our vehicles look, we're not going to make them retro, but they will need to have a stronger identity in my view, and they will need to really tell a very compelling story about driving and about beauty and about luxury and about innovation,” insists Thomson.
“Jag has always been about driving. They've never been about going crazy on the Nürburgring, but they've been about really enjoying the drive of the car, sometimes a bit selfishly. And I think that's what we're trying to do as a connection.”