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Frankfurt Motor Show Notes: Why Jaguar decided to build an SUV

Quick Hits On: Opel, Mercedes, BMW, And Hyundai

It was inevitable. Jaguar had to make an SUV, and that notion became reality this week with the debut of the F-Pace, an all-wheel-drive five-seater that will launch in the United States next spring. Some purists may cringe. But in an era when Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, and other traditional luxury brands are all building or (planning to build) SUVs, Jaguar had to evolve.

While it seems like a leap for Jaguar to make an SUV, longtime design director Ian Callum said it's been in the works for years. "The first time I was asked the question was when I arrived 16 years ago," he said.

So in 1999 (and probably well before that), Jaguar was already thinking SUV. What took so long? "It wasn't a priority," Callum said. Jaguar was concentrating on fixing its existing lineup, which was pockmarked with holes and poorly selling products, like the X-Type. Along the way, Jaguar and sister brand Land Rover were sold by Ford to Indian conglomerate Tata Motors.

Flash forward several years, and Jaguar and Land Rover are both experiencing a resurgence in the United States and around the world. Jaguar's lineup is flush with the E-Type's modern successor, the F-Type, plus a new version of the XF. The XJ received a 2016 freshening, and the smaller XE sedan is on the way.

Jaguar put its house in order as other factors conspired to make a crossover timely. Fuel prices stayed relatively low, and consumers in the US and China remained steadfast in their love for utility vehicles of all stripes. Making a Jaguar SUV became a priority. "The world was telling us in no uncertain terms this is what they wanted," Callum said. "Not to be in the sector would be a little naïve for the sake of purity."

Jaguar proved its intent two years ago when it revealed the C-X17 crossover concept at Frankfurt, and the final production model is close to the prototype's striking looks. "I thought we managed to maintain that spirit," Callum said.

It's a true Jaguar, with cues from the F-Type, 1968 XJ, and other famous models. Who would have thought Jaguar would make an SUV? "I certainly didn't," Callum admitted.

But the F-Pace is here. If Callum is okay with it, purists can be, too.

Quick Hits

Opel retrenches for 2016 and beyond

Opel used the Frankfurt show to display its new generation of the Astra, a critical vehicle line for the German division of General Motors. The occasion drew an appearance by GM CEO Mary Barra, who reiterated the sentiment that Opel remains an integral part of the Detroit-based automaker. "Opel is vital to GM," she said. Barra added Opel will get a fresh influx or new products starting next year, including an electric vehicle and a flagship SUV. GM claims Opel will get an eye-watering 29 new products through 2020.

More Mercedes S-Classes on the way

Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said Mercedes will continue to expand the S-Class portfolio, which now numbers six around the world. Four are sold in the United States, including the S-Class cabriolet launching next spring. "We believe there is room for more family members," Zetsche told the packed three-level hall where Mercedes staged its press conference. Unfortunately, more details aren't available.

BMW CEO recovering after fainting at show

BMW Harald Krüger is okay after passing out during the automaker's press conference, which kicked off the auto show. In a statement sent to Autoblog, the company said "Harald Krüger experienced a moment of dizziness. As a result, the press conference was canceled in order [that] Mr. Krüger could be examined by a doctor. Mr. Krüger's health is stable and he is recovering well."

Hyundai gets serious about performance

Speaking of BMW, one of its former high ranking M division execs, Albert Biermann, took center stage at Frankfurt for the unveiling of Hyundai's new performance division. Called N, the division will focus on "future performance-oriented and race-track-capable models." For now, that means vehicles like the Hyundai N 2025 Vision Gran Turismo, which was revealed in Frankfurt. "We want to demonstrate the amazing possibility that could be coming up through N," said Biermann, who now oversees vehicle testing and performance development for Hyundai. Stay tuned.
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