Case Study: How Jaguar Regains its Reputation
Jaguar Cars, Ltd., is one of the most famous luxury automobile manufacturers in the world. With its sleek lines, leather interiors, and smooth engines, Jaguar is the car of choice for wealthy brokers who work on Wall Street in New York and the nouveau riche in Japan who shop on Tokyo's Ginza. The driving force behind Jaguar, William Lyons, was born on September 4, 1901, in Blackpool, a town in the county of Lancashire, England. Uninterested in academics as a teenager, he was on the verge of entering the shipbuilding industry when his father encouraged him to work at Crossley Motors, Ltd., and attend engineering classes during the evening. Crossley was a distinguished automobile manufacturer during the early twentieth century. By the time Lyons went to work at its factory in Manchester, near the end of World War I, Crossley's chassis were used by the British government for military ambulances, staff cars, and small trucks. The success of the war years carried into the early 1920s, and sales of Crossley cars increased. Lyons was unhappy at Crossley, however, and he soon left the company to work for Brown and Mallalieu, an automobile distributor, as a junior salesman.
In the early 1920s Lyons met William Walmsley, a veteran of World War I whose hobby was building sidecars for motorcycles. Lyons approached Walmsley, a neighbor of his parents in Blackpool, about setting up a joint effort to manufacture and sell sidecars. Walmsley was reluctant at first, but was finally overwhelmed by Lyons' enthusiasm. The two men procured a loan of 1,000 pounds from a local bank and established the Swallow Sidecar Company in 1922. While Walmsley focused on building the company's sidecars, Lyons concentrated on hiring labor, renting a working place, and advertising. Soon the company was garnering a reputation for its sidecars, which were used during motorcycling competitions. By 1926 the rapidly expanding firm was operating from three different locations in Blackpool and had hired numerous employees. The company's rapid growth prompted Lyons and Walmsley to leave Blackpool and relocate in Coventry, where there was more than enough space to accommodate further expansion. In 1928 about 50 employees moved to Coventry to continue working at the renamed Swallow Sidecar and Coach Building Company.
With the move to Coventry, Swallow began to produce coachwork for chassis provided by Fiat, Austin, and Alvis. The Fiat-Swallow, with its two-door salon coachwork, impressive radiator, and two-tone coloring, was an immediate success, and soon the company was manufacturing 50 cars per week. In 1929 the company unveiled its Standard-Swallow; two years later, brand new cars such as the SS1 and the SS2 (which could cruise at 50 mph) were introduced. The SS1 was a low-built, two-door, sports coupe that featured two passenger seats and room in the back of the body for a large luggage box. In order to increase sales, Lyons encouraged owners of Swallow cars to enter motoring competitions. The first SS1 made its racing debut in the 1932 Torquay 1,000-mile rally. The decade of the 1930s was a watershed period for the company. Sales of Swallow cars were increasing at such a fast pace that by 1933 the company counted 18 distributors worldwide. Continental agents included those in The Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, Portugal, Belgium, and Switzerland; non-European agents were located in Calcutta, Delhi, Cape Town, and Johannesburg. In the spring of the same year, Swallow manufactured its first touring sedan, a car that featured coachwork on a SS1 chassis. The new sedan sold well from the start. During the mid-1930s, the SS product line offered four engine sizes, two chassis, and a choice of sport coupe, salon or touring coachwork. Comfort in the car's interior design, the elegance of the car's body lines, and its reliable engine performance began to garner the company a reputation in such...