Jaguar Cars Must Draw Inspiration from its past but not attempt to recreate it, as the luxury marque drives toward a “fresh start” under the ownership of India's Tata Motor Ltd., a top executive says.

“The legacy of our past is a great influence for our future,” Mike O'Driscoll, Jaguar managing director, tells Ward's. “I think we have a fresh start to remake Jaguar in the image of our past as a maker of beautiful, fast cars.”

From its humble beginnings as the Swallow Sidecar Co., a manufacturer of motorcycle sidecars, Jaguar blossomed into one of the world's most iconic auto brands. Models such as the XK120 in the 1940s and the venerable XKE of the 1960s cemented the marque in automotive lore.

However, under the leadership of Ford Motor Co., which bought Jaguar in 1989, O'Driscoll says the essence of the brand became diluted when the focus shifted to increasing volume rather than remaining true to its roots as a manufacturer of exclusive sports cars and sedans.

A prime example is the ill-fated X-Type, which debuted in the U.S. in 2001 as an '02 model. Sharing a platform with the European Ford Mondeo, the so-called “baby Jag” struggled to find a niche from the beginning and finally was pulled from the U.S. market late last year.

“In the segment we're operating in, it's not about the number of cars you sell, but rather the quality and the relationship you have with your owners,” O'Driscoll says.

“It's very important we don't once again get drawn into the search for volume that was so alluring to Jaguar when part of Ford,” he adds, noting the sale to Tata should be completed in about one month.

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