Jaguar design director Julian Thomson is leaving the automaker after 21 years at the company. It’s an interesting move for both parties, as Thomson has only been leading the new design direction pushing towards electrified vehicles for less than two years.
Before his long successful stint at Jaguar, Thomson worked at Lotus for 12 years. The guy seems to know his way around British sports cars. That’s why it’s so surprising that he’d give up the design director role at a company he’s invested over two decades of his life in after such a short stint.
Autocar reports Thomson is leaving at the end of May to explore new opportunities outside of the company, and he could be headed to China. From the article:
The reasons for the departure are unclear, but a Jaguar statement said he will explore other exciting opportunities outside of Jaguar Land Rover. Reports online suggest that he could be headed to India to work for nascent EV maker Ola Electric.
In his time at Jaguar Land Rover, Thomson developed the LRX concept which became the production Land Rover Evoque, and had a hand in the Jaguar XE and XF sedans and F-Type coupe. He was promoted to Jaguar’s design director in 2019 after famed designer Ian Callum left after his long stint to pursue personal projects, like refining his Aston Martin Vanquish design, which you can read more about here.
Ian Callum responded to Thomson’s departure from Jaguar on Twitter claiming he was “disappointed to see Julian Thomson leave Jaguar Design. Especially at a time when Jaguar needs directors of such a high calibre, leadership skills and talent.” Jaguar Land Rover CEO Thierry Bolloré also released a statement, via Autocar: “Julian has always endeavoured [sic] to be a champion of creativity, diversity and building a fair and positive work culture. I would like to thank Julian for his great work, leadership, dedication and significant contribution and wish him every success in the future.”
Jaguar recently announced plans to become a fully-electric lineup by 2025, and just yesterday Automotive News Europe ran an article detailing how the automaker planned to pivot away from directly rivaling German luxury automakers like Audi and BMW.
It’s clear the design future of Jaguar is being shaken up with such plans, and I’m sure some major decisions for the brand have to be made. With such a big departure at such a critical time, it does raise some alarm as to the confidence of the direction Jaguar will end up going with.
While cars Thomson worked on, like the XF, XE and F-Type, were all praised for their design, the vehicles are not exactly cash cows for the automaker. Jag’s push as a design brand with its latest generation struggled to net strong sales growth on target with rivals like BMW and Audi. It makes sense that the company may want a strong departure from that approach, and that could have involved Thomson in some capacity.
But with over 21 years under his belt, I’m sure the relationship is ending on great terms. After two decades and a couple years of seeing what it’s like at the top and maybe Thomson just realized he no longer loves the gig and wants to go back to something more involved.
It’s just shifty timing for such a departure if you care about what Jags are going to look like in the future. Jaguar as a brand has a lot of design legacy to work with so we shouldn’t have to worry.