In the weeks since Jaguar Land Rover’s product development centers closed to help thwart the spread of COVID-19 in the U.K., Adam Hatton, 48 and Alister Whelan, 44, have been focusing on refining how future Jaguars will look inside and out.
Hatton, a 22-year Jaguar veteran, is creative director of exterior design. Whelan, with Jaguar at 20 years, is creative director, interior design. Both spoke with Staff Reporter Richard Truett via Zoom from their home offices. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: Has the use of aluminum — which is not compatible for deep draws and dramatic bends for body panels — limited some of the shapes you’ve wanted to create for Jaguars? If “limited” is too strong, then maybe “influence” is better?
Hatton: It is more difficult to press shapes in aluminum than in steel, but we are experts in that field now. We know well how to get really good form into the cars, and you can see that in the cars on the road today and you will see it in the future. I asked my exterior team to embrace the fact that we are using aluminum. It adds to the purity, anyway. We are not about having lots of lines all over the surfaces to distract the eye. We are about beautiful proportions and flowing surfaces just like all the great Jaguars. We use it to our advantage.
Is there any thinking that Jaguar might revert back to steel as new blends become lighter and more competitive with aluminum?
Hatton: We’re using a combination of materials. And it depends on the car we are designing. We don’t rule anything out. We’re using steel, magnesium and a mix of materials. We always aim to try and use the most efficient material for the weight savings. There is a big advantage in steel, as well, and we are looking seriously into that, as well.
The styling of the XJ6, in my view, was a once-in-lifetime gift from the car-design gods. Maybe this is not a fair comparison, but is Jaguar’s new design language resonating with consumers, making that same emotional connection as the XJ6?
Hatton: It has been very successful. Our team has worked very closely over the last 20 years with [retired design chief] Ian Callum. He was a terrific leader and his main job was to modernize the Jaguar brand through design and put design firmly on the map. He absolutely did that.
We’ve proven to the world we can do more than cars. The next stage is all about making them even more Jaguar. And getting even more character into the future products we are working on. It’s about standing out in a world of startups and lots of cars looking the same. And many looking a bit like Jaguars. That’s a natural thing we can’t do much about. But we can use our rich heritage in a very intelligent way. Not retro, but in a way that gives our brand that character.
In a market crowded with SUVs and crossovers, automakers are trying to figure out what comes next. Can you say what body styles are you investigating for future Jaguars?
Hatton: Everyone is asking the same sort of things. All I can say is that we are looking at all different types of body styles. We work up to 2030 and beyond. We are looking at all sorts of different forms of cars. That all relates back to what customers are going to want. Lots of future trends analysis, and that’s kind of the driving force behind trying all these different forms. The I-Pace, for example, is a very different form for Jaguar, maybe a little ahead of its time.
We do think space and well-being are going to be important, and having your own sanctuary will be a big thing in the future. We are going to look at what’s going on in the world right now, and maybe that will drive different body styles. Whether it is a sports car, sedan or an SUV, it should always look sleek. Whatever we try, it will always be true to looking like Jaguars.
One of the designers at a major automaker mentioned that many of the screens in cars looks like “tombstones” sticking out of the ground. Have you thought about how the screens in future Jags might evolve so they look more natural and integrated?
Whelan: There is no kind of clear trend across the industry. Many car companies, for example, are doing haptic approaches. What might be right for one might not necessarily be right for the other.
What we’ve done on I-Pace is we’ve really tried to showcase what we believe are our values for future Jaguars and that kind of integration of touch technology with what we call a few hero pieces of tactility. It is what we believe is the right balance.
Moving forward, Jaguar’s place in the world might not necessarily be about the quickest naught to 60 or how quick you can go around a corner. The world is changing. And has changed rapidly.
We believed refined performance is the right thing to do. Having a safe environment with eyes on the road and digital interaction with physical controls is the best balance of connectivity and flexibility, but with something that is very safe and very intuitive, as well. We are working on things you’ll see in the not-too-distant future that will move things on. But the screen in the I-Pace set a precedent you’ll see evolve in our design strategy.
At one time every Jaguar made came with wood and leather interior trim. But Jaguar has moved beyond that. What are some of the popular modern materials?
Whelan: We still like wood and leather! And we, as many car companies, have been talking about sustainability for years now. Within my design pillar now I am kind of mixing the color and materials team now more and more with interior designers and with Adam’s team. It’s a sustainability material choice, not just about my team designing the surfaces on the inside.
We are actually designing from scratch the right way to be sustainable. What we can do more of, what I find to be fascinating, is design surfaces or seams on doors in a really intelligent way to make sure we minimize waste. There will always be a place for wood and leather for customers who want that choice. There will be more and more offerings for people who want sustainable choices.
How are you coping with not being able to go to work and to use all the tools of your trade?
Hatton: We have all been working at home, and we’ve been very impressed at how we’ve been able to work so well. I think it is going to transform things in the future.
We’ve been having lots of meetings daily. We are using this time to our advantage and [to] get some very strong future strategies in place. The work that we were doing in the Jaguar design studio, a lot of that can continue from home. Alistair and myself have our teams working on many interesting projects. We can do a lot of our jobs from home, but obviously not the clay models.
In the meantime, we are just really honing our digital skills, and to keep the creativity going, we have given our designers interesting tasks and challenges. For example, I have set some work on some future brand exterior designs for the next five to 10 years. This decade is going to be about electrification. So, how do we distinguish the look of cars that have engines and cars that are electric. So we have all the designers working on great projects to keep their creative muscles going.