Jaguar is ready for the future, and its cars look the part thanks to Ian Callum

Despair, grow weary? Nope. Jaguar design is better than ever.

There are few living legends in the car business. Jaguar design director Ian Callum is one of them. The longtime stylist announced Tuesday he's stepping down after a decorated career that's seen the resurgence of Jaguar and its again superlative design.

Callum, who turns 65 in July, has overseen Jaguar design for 20 years and shepherded it from an era of mediocrity and uncertainty to success with its current lineup of eye-catching products. The brand's 1990s and 2000s cars, led by the haggard X-Type, were too-often forgettable. But in the last decade, Callum has completely flipped the script, returning Jaguar to its sports-car roots with the F-Type while embracing the new period of electric vehicles and crossovers.

"Yesterday I told my team I was leaving as Design Director for Jaguar after 20 years. I've done what I set out to do. Time for a new adventure. I pass the baton onto my good friend and great designer Julian Thomson...." Callum tweeted Tuesday.

Thompson, a 19-year veteran of Jaguar takes the reins from Callum, who is staying on as a consultant. The move takes effect July 1. As Callum notes, it's not a retirement, though he didn't elaborate.

"Given the strength of both our products and the design team I feel that now is the right time to move on, both personally and professionally, and explore other design projects," he said in a statement.

The Scottish-born designer studied at the Royal College of Art and was steeped in the tradition of Jaguar and British cars. He had every reason to resist change. He didn't, instead evolving his dream job into an instrument of evolution, and today Jaguar has the most well-rounded portfolio in its history. With EVs like the I-Pace the brand has an elegant and efficient car capable of taking down Tesla, while the F-Pace and E-Pace crossovers are bringing Jaguar to a new kind of customer.

"In my view, the World Car Design of the Year winning F-Type, F-Pace and I-Pace – true game changers – are perhaps his greatest achievements. I believe they will be future icons," Jaguar Land Rover chief executive Ralf Speth said in a statement.

Through it all, Callum never lost focus on Jaguar's sense of purpose. Along with Aston Martin, McLaren and Rolls-Royce, Jaguar holds a place in Britain's car culture and broader identity. He recognized when Jaguar rolled out a sports car openly tapped as the successor to the E-type – and then called it the F-Type – it carried the weight of history on its aluminum chassis. He embraced the need to live up to the past, without being syrupy retro.

Callum cut his teeth at Ford, where his also-accomplished brother, Moray, is vice president of design. Ian Callum worked on a wide range of cars like the Ford Puma, Escort Cosworth and Ghia Via concept. He then helped guide Jaguar while it was owned by Ford, a nearly 20-year experiment that ultimately proved fruitless and expensive for both companies. Under American ownership Callum did his best to ensure Jaguars still meant something, even if their ethos didn't live up to the halcyon days of the 1960s.

Purchased by India's Tata Motors in 2008, Jaguar has thrived as a semi-independent car company. With investments in technology and manufacturing, the brand has pushed forward with new innovations and a clearer portfolio that complements its sister brand, Land Rover, also owned by Tata.

Design is entering another era as alternative powertrains, ride hailing and autonomous technology influence how cars look and feel. Jaguar is ready for it, and its products look the part, thanks to Callum.

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