Gayle Anderson was live in Los Angeles to take a look at the new Jaguar XJ luxury sedan. A July 2009 WALL STREET JOURNAL article takes a look at this car's arrival at a time when the economy is not the best:
"Luxury manufacturers are betting that wealthy individuals in the U.S. and elsewhere will be so intrigued by the new designs and technology that they'll come out of their bunkers and restock their garages. This is one industry that is quietly applauding the prospect of Wall Street bonuses.
The luxury market "will recover," says Richard Beattie, Jaguar North America's executive vice president for marketing and sales. "We happen to have a new car that will benefit from that recovery. ... If you are out there with the new kid on the block, you are going to get a look."
Mr. Beattie says he is hoping that as 2010 unfolds, luxury sales will improve as much as 20% from current levels-in other words, still well below the recent peaks, but moving up.
In mid-2010, Volkswagen AG's Audi plans to launch a redesigned version of its top-end sedan, the A8-a critical step in Audi's long-running effort to crack the German luxury duopoly of Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Porsche AG is making a similar bet on a 2010 turnaround-and, like Jaguar and others, it has no choice. The company has been gearing up for three years or more for this fall's launch of a fourth major model line, the Panamera, the first four-door Porsche car, as distinct from the four-door sport-utility vehicle Porsche sells, the Cayenne. (Porsche's lineup also includes the Boxster/Cayman and the 911.) "That train starts rolling; you can't really stop it," says Porsche spokesman Gary Fong.
The segment that the Panamera seeks to inhabit-four-door sports cars-is going to be crowded almost as soon as it is defined. BMW AG plans to launch in November what it calls a "progressive activity sedan," the 550i Gran Turismo. Search that term on YouTube, and you'll see a video showing a BMW that looks like a large coupe, with an arcing roofline instead of the more formal "three-box" sedan design. But wait! The rear opens like a hatchback for luggage.
Farther down the price ladder, Honda Motor Co.'s Acura division plans to bring out the ZDX, which like the BMW Gran Turismo combines the roofline of a sporty two-door with four-door functionality.
These coupe-sedan hybrids are clearly aimed at baby boomers who want to show the sporting flag as if they're still 29, but whose 55-year-old bums and backs need more spacious accommodations.
Versatility is also an important attribute for General Motors Co.'s two new Cadillac models, the redesigned SRX sport utility and the CTS wagon, which will do battle with European brands such as Audi and Ford Motor Co.'s Volvo brand in the luxury station-wagon niche.
For those who want to invest in clean technology, Mercedes will offer a mild-hybrid version of its top-of-the-line S Class. It will use a lithium-ion battery to achieve estimated mileage of as much as 29 miles per gallon, compared to mileage in the high teens for the standard premium gasoline-powered models.
Lexus will counter with its first model designed from the ground up to be a hybrid, the Lexus HS 250h sedan. The HS 250h is, in essence, a Lexus version of the Toyota Prius, but with a more sedate exterior design. Lexus has had modest success, to be polite about it, selling the hybridized versions of conventional models such as the RX sport utility. Toyota estimates the HS 250 will average about 35 miles a gallon-a mileage edge on most other luxury vehicles. The HS 250h will offer rivals a live test of whether luxury car buyers are prepared to accept a four-cylinder hybrid with less than 200 horsepower in return for the satisfaction of leaving a smaller carbon footprint.
BMW plans to offer hybrid versions of the X6 sport-utility wagon and, early next year, its 7-series sedan.
Plenty of people still like their cars powerful, comfortable and eye-catching. For them, Mercedes-Benz is already promoting its new 2010 E-class coupe, which has two doors, engines that range up to 382 horsepower, and a price starting at just over $48,000. It is the latest in a series of cars designed to dispel Mercedes's image as the staid German luxury brand.
A television ad for the E Coupe shows the car speeding down a twisty forest road, then crashing through a picture window to skid to a stop in a Mercedes museum.
Green that, Kermit."
(Courtesy: Wall Street Journal, July 21, 2009)