First the gloom, then the varoom!
Nissan/Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn took the occasion of the Paris Auto Show – the first press day, in fact – to issue a grim warning about the non-competitive nature of the French auto industry. In an interview with the influential French daily Le Figaro, he warned of potential job cuts and called on the French Government to improve France’s industrial competitiveness.
Ghosn’s comments seemed designed to rock what really does feel like an astonishingly high level of complacency within a French and European car industry that outside of certain German car companies is unprofitable and burdened by overcapacity and high costs. Ghosn, in fact, fired a similar shot across the bow of the Japanese Government last year at the Tokyo Motor Show, calling on Japanese officials to address the over-valued yen. The consequences of not acting, he warned were simple enough: Nissan would move more of its operations overseas, where costs are lower.
Since then, Nissan has sent the headquarters of its Infiniti premium brand to Hong Kong and the company has been pushing ahead aggressively with an ongoing plan to shift production out of Japan, to markets where costs are lower and the business environment is more business-friendly.
Thus, when Ghosn issues a warning about the situation in France, we can assume he is not blowing smoke or being disingenuous in any way. Ghosn’s warnings have political implications for one simple reason: the French government holds a 15 per cent stake in Renault and two board seats. Thus, Ghosn is giving notice to the French government, and that comes with obvious political implications.
Without a doubt, the European auto industry is in dire straits. Ford Motor, for instance, may lose as much as $1-billion on its European operations this year. Peugeot recently announced layoffs of up to 8,000 or more, Fiat of Italy is struggling and General Motors’ Opel division has lost billions over the last 15 years. In a nutshell, the first press day of the Paris Auto Show opened today with industry insiders fretting about the dire circumstances in a huge and important industry that employs hundreds of thousands of workers.
And then all that was wiped away at 8 a.m. with some serious vroom – in the form of the 2014 Jaguar F-Type roadster. Jaguar chief designer Ian Callum stood in front of the car, as hundreds of panting journos looked on.
“The car speaks for itself,” he said, exiting the stage without so much as a sentence of detailed explanation.
Jaguar, of course, has been toying with us for years here. We’ve had rumour after rumour of a new sports car, and concept cars actually called the F-Type, too. Now the real thing is here.
And it’s stunning. A front-engine, rear-drive high-zoot sports car based on a lightweight aluminum architecture. Jaguar Land Rover president Lindsay Duffield said the car would arrive in showrooms next spring priced somewhere between a Porsche Boxster S and a Porsche 911 Carrera. Best guess: base price of about $80,000 or so.
Jaguar will offer three versions, all supercharged. A 3.0-litre V-6 car will be rated at 340 horsepower, while Jag will also offer a V-6 supercharged to 380 hp and a V-8 supercharged to 495 hp. The fastest F will do 0-100 km/h in 4.2 seconds. Meanwhile, the convertible top folds in 12 seconds at speeds up to around 50 km/hour.
Insiders suggest Jag is unlikely to make much if any money at all on the F-Type, but the boost to Jaguar’s image as a progressive, daring luxury brand are incalculable.
So the vroom more than made up for the gloom on a rainy day in Paris.