John Edwards, managing director, Special Operations Division at Jaguar Land Rover, has announced that its SVO unit remains committed to producing cars of distinction that really push the ‘boundaries’. ArabWheels managed to secure an exclusive interview with the charismatic visionary who is spearheading Special Vehicles Operations for the UK car-manufacturing colossus at the Dubai International Motor Show.
In what was a brilliant, informative and engaging interview, Edwards said Jaguar Land Rover SVO needed to create its own identity. In addition to this, he reiterated that JLR will continue to produce SVO vehicles of luxury, high-performance and all-terrain capabilities and highlighted that its lineup will have grown significantly by this time next year.
We know from visiting the SVO HQ on a number of occasions that you are able to do customized vehicles. However, are you planning to do some bespoke models for princes or kings using Arabic calligraphy in the Middle East region?
I couldn’t share any particular plans, as our commissions are typically sensitive if you like. However, I think the issue is what we now as a manufacturer are able to do is offer that bespoke service which in the past is something we weren’t able to do. When we talk about bespoke we’re talking primarily about the exterior color of the car, the paint finish, the interior trim, the leathers, the veneers, the stitching, the embroidery and the engraving. So all of these are personalization opportunities and clearly using Arabic calligraphy would be another opportunity for us. However, I’ve not got anything to share specifically, but this is very important for my business, because we’re all about producing cars of distinction and cars that really stand out, cars in our words that really push the boundaries. We look at luxury, we look at performance and all-terrain capability, and all three of those are values that are all appreciated here in the region.
Will the SVO/SVR models have a separate corner and branding within Jaguar Land Rover showrooms?
To be honest, we’re in our infancy; we’re three years old and we’ve got three products in the marketplace today. You can add to that the SV Project 8 and the Discovery SVX, which is a car we’ve already talked about and there are more cars in the pipeline. So having a corner of the showroom is going to be difficult because we’re going to have too many products. We need to create our own identity, but the way in which we position ourselves in our showrooms is going to be quite complex. We’ve already got Jaguar and Land Rover sitting together, clearly the SVO products cover both Jaguar and Land Rover, but it’s still a work in progress.
What do you have in the pipeline other than the Range Rover Velar SVR and a menacing version of the F-TYPE Project 7?
I can only talk about the cars that we’ve already announced, but we’ve got three halo derivatives in the marketplace today. We’ve got the Range Rover SV-Autobiography, which is all about luxury, comfort and refinement, we’ve got the Range Rover Sport SVR, which is all about performance and pushing boundaries of performance for Land Rover-it’s the most powerful Land Rover ever and we’ve also got the F-TYPE SVR. The F-TYPE SVR is a 200 mph, we call it an all-terrain, all weather supercar; it’s a fast car. In addition to this, over the next twelve months we will be putting into production the X8 Project 8 that’s an exclusive run, 300 cars. We put our biggest, most powerful engine at 600 PS [592-hp] into our lightest, smallest SUV saloon, which creates some massive technical challenges. It’s a car that is designed for the track and is very track focused, so it’s quite a hard car, but it is road legal. However, when we’ve shown that car to customers they just loved it. It put a smile on their face. The final car we will put into production next year is the Discovery SVX, which is all about all-terrain capability. We know that in this region, particularly in the desert, there’s a great desire to take the cars off-road and really use them. So it’s going to be busy and we’re also launching two other products next year, the details of which I can’t disclose at this moment, but the whole lineup will grow significantly by this time next year.
Some SVO models do not have a huge amount of power versus AMG models. Is it right to call one of the JLR models an SVO by having a modified interior and exterior?
I’m not sure we do offer any products that only have a modified interior and exterior. The car where we’ve probably got least differentiation from our car and the core products is the F-TYPE R. The F-TYPE R is 525 horsepower, ours is a 575 horsepower but actually the performance differential is quite significant. It’s a really interesting question because we always talk about design and engineering integrity. We have a checklist for our products, and our products have to tick the box in terms of various items of what we call DNA. So for an SVR, the car needs to have more power, improved aerodynamics, it needs to be lighter, it needs to have improved performance and it needs to have a unique interior design and unless you can tick all those boxes then we won’t call it a SVR. We take that differentiation very seriously.
Jaguar Land Rover has claimed that electrification is the key to the future. However, in the Middle East market we know there’s a passion for big engines and noise, so will it be difficult for JLR customers to make that transition towards electrification?
I think the automotive industry is undergoing an amazing transformation, and I think electrification is going to be hugely important within our business and the automotive industry overall. So every single car that we will have in the marketplace by 2020 will have some form of electrification whether it’s a plug-in hybrid or a full-electric vehicle. How that is embraced in this region, an oil producing region, where the requirements aren’t as great as in other areas, is going to be interesting to watch, but it’s going to happen. If you drive an electric car, if you drive it on-road, the acceleration, power and demand is amazing, so it’s a really interesting drive. If you think about deploying electric motors front and rear or all four wheels for an off-road vehicle, it actually brings all sorts of interesting opportunities as well. I think for my business, we just need to, and we will, work out exactly at how to apply it for our particular products and our markets.
Can you outline to us your primary objectives and aims for 2018?
Our overall business is all about products. The Jaguar Land Rover business has undergone a revolution over the last five years in terms of our product lineup, and that’s equally true if not even truer for SVO. Our customers are real car enthusiasts and they just love products, especially the ones that look different, sound different, drive different, that are exclusive and that are niche. We’re definitely growing and we’re investing very heavily-more than £100 million a year, in terms of engineering. We’ve got more than 500 engineers and designers just working on SVO products. It’s a very busy future, but it’s exciting and challenging.