Jaguar's F-type launches victory debate

Jaguar F-type
Image caption Jaguar says the F-type is its most important new model for 50 years

In the rain on the balcony outside Musee Rodin in Paris, Lana Del Rey's husky voice and seductive looks are nothing if not glamorous.

Yet when asked by BBC News what she can add to the carmaker Jaguar's image, her answer is demure.

"I don't add anything they don't already have," the singer purrs before her minder pulls her away.

Jaguar can only hope the modesty of the star act at the private pre-launch of its F-type is misplaced.

Image caption Jaguar brought in singer Lana Del Rey to add a bit of glamour to the F-type launch

Because if there is one thing the UK-based automotive company craves, it is a sportscar that can recreate some of the sense of passion inspired by its last sportscar, the E-type.

Ian Callum, who designed the F-type, insists he has been dreaming of this day since long before he joined the company, insisting its spiritual predecessor - the iconic E-type - wowed him when he was seven years old.

Adrian Hallmark, Jaguar's global brand director, insists the F-type is "the most important car in 50 years for Jaguar".

The F-Type will be built in Castle Bromwich in the West Midlands. Jaguar Land Rover's UK managing director, Jeremy Hicks, has told the BBC that it will create 1,000 new jobs there.

For richer for poorer

Across the Seine, Opel - or Vauxhall as it is known as in the UK - is appealing to a different group of customers, with a car named after the company's founder, Adam Opel.

Funky street artists rap outside the Chez Francais brasserie.

"So stand still if you will, when all becomes new," cries one, as colourful small cars roll up alongside the pavement.

The rap continues: "When time's running out and we don't know what to say".

Image caption Opel's design chief Mark Adams says the Opel should attract new customers

And so, the Paris motor show gets underway with models for the rich, and models for the poor.

New opportunities

Bizarrely, perhaps, it is quite possible that they have both hit the nail on the head.

The only metal that seems to be shifting in the crisis-hit eurozone at the moment is the stuff made by premium car companies such as Jaguar Land Rover, or cheap and frugal mini-cars such as Adam.

Those with large budgets seem to be particularly well catered for in the immediate future.

"The Paris motor show will provide the premium manufacturers with a suitable stage for a tsunami of new model launches which look set to further cement the short and medium-term prospects of the sector," observes IHS Automotive analyst Tim Urquhart.

Car buyers with smaller budgets, meanwhile, could offer new opportunities for traditional mid-market players such as Opel/Vauxhall.

As such, Opel's new mini-car should help "broaden the appeal and maybe bring new people into the brand that would never have considered us before", according to design chief Mark Adams.

Money to deliver?

Image caption Premium car firms, such as Porsche, seem to have invested their money wisely

Amongst the more than 100 new cars that are being unveiled at the Paris motor show this year, the F-type and the Adam might stand out, and there is every chance they will both be popular with buyers.

But looking at the cars on show here might do little to help predict which of the manufacturers will become tomorrow's winners, as the motor industry continues its perpetual race.

"It's a very dynamic market," observes Paul Everitt, chief executive of the UK's motor industry body SMMT.

So instead, it might be better to scrutinise the investment plans of those with money to burn, to see whether they have what it takes to deliver.

Best clue

The premium carmakers are "flushed with cash", having raked it in from booming sales in the US and China in recent years, and for the most part they seem to have invested their money wisely, according to Mr Urquhart, who points to "key new models" such as the new Range Rover and McLaren's P1 supercar.

Image caption The F-type's predecessor the E-type is considered to be one of the most beautiful cars ever made

"Lightweight technologies and alternative power train solutions" are central to the premium carmaker's strategies, as they are becoming "part of their brand DNA", he says.

South Korea's Hyundai has also enjoyed a few bumper seasons, and as its cash flow has been healthy it has invested heavily in technologies predicted to become crucial in the future.

Hyundai is set to announce plans to bring forward the mass production of hydrogen fuel cell cars, so we might see such vehicles on the road in just a couple of years.

With developments such as these, a picture seems to be emerging between the "haves" and the "have-nots" - those who have money to invest in greater efficiency both in environmental and fuel economy terms, and those with major financial problems that prevent them from investing in the future.

Such dilemmas have always been pertinent to players in the motor industry, though at a time when technologies - ranging from computer games to on-the-go access to work - seem to be what wows consumers, it is possible that research and development budgets, rather than the latest model launches, offer the best clue to which carmakers will succeed in the years ahead.

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