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Dream Cars: Rover Masala

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Jaguar, Land Rover, Rover, Tata
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Dream Cars: Rover Masala

Bill Crittenden
August 26, 2013

Jaguar & Land Rover look to be at a bit of a crossroads, where the company could either stay below 300,000 cars per year and be a premium-only brand or go mass market, subjecting themselves to EU average emissions regulations (similar to CAFE here in the US) that would require a dramatically more efficient average Jag.  That's all detailed at SpeedMonkey.co.uk along with a possible Jaguar hatchback to help the company make the rating.

Aston Martin was in a similar situation, and their solution was creating a thirty-thousand pound (British money, not a 15-ton car) version of the Toyota iQ called the Cygnet.  All I can say about the car is that Cadillac can now be excused for making the Cimarron.

There's a reason Ford has Lincoln, GM has Cadillac, and Toyota has Lexus.  It works in the opposite direction, too, when a luxury automaker stares over their lofty precipice at an impossibly low fuel economy rating, it has to know that cheapening the brand with an economy car is throwing the brand off a cliff and hoping its image isn't broken when it lands in 50mpg territory.

Jaguar and corporate brother Land Rover have a new corporate parent, Tata Motors of Tata Nano fame.  Tata knows how to make a small car, but can it make one on the level of European safety standards while retaining that fuel efficiency?  Will it sell in a tough, crowded market?

Oh, but perhaps there is a better way.  Sidestep the competition, so to speak, by making a unique product.  Another automaker from India, Hindustan Motors, has been producing cars based on the old Morris Oxford since 1948.  Their current Ambassador model is a mix of new technology on an old design, thoroughly unfit for what Jaguar/Land Rover needs, but it's an Indian national icon and it does provide inspiration.

Jaguar and Land Rover are among the most iconic British automakers in history, and tapping Britain's rich automotive design history and wrapping it around a modern car, like BMW does with the Mini brand, can give Tata a car that would attract European and Indian buyers.  It just so happens that the currently unused Rover marque was bundled along with Jaguar and Land Rover in the sale to Tata.

The easiest way to return to market and avoid problems with engineering a car from scratch or having troubles building trust in the market, as the new MG is experiencing, would be to partner with an existing automaker.  General Motors might actually be a good partner in this case. They've been on a tear through Asia, investing heavily in China, Indonesia, and South Korea, but not much yet in the vast market of India.

A co-production facility, building Chevrolets for the Asian market and exporting Rovers to Europe to offset Jaguar's economy ratings, would benefit both companies, and GM's upcoming "modular" Delta III platform is made to be flexible (the Delta II is the basis for the Chevrolet Cruze and Buick Excelle/Verano).

Oh, but to be a little different, instead of trying to be too obviously British for a car made in India, the model names and logo could be reworked to reflect the new Indian influences on the car.  Bridging both worlds and cultures, like a well-made chicken tikka masala.  Therein lies the uniqueness, as I can't think of another car that has that cultural bridge: a little British, a little exotic, a little fun on a mostly practical car.

I spent a little time reading through Indian culture for inspiration, and it dawned on me that I already wrote it...how about Masala for a name?  The Rover Masala, whose name evokes British history and Indian spice in two simple words, available as a sedan or coupe, built in India with British style penned by the folks who designed the F-Type.

And if it fails horribly, Jaguar's reputation remains untouched.  Unlike Cadillac, which is still subject to constant reminders of the Cimarron three decades later...

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