Coventry, England — The future, the present, and the past according to the man who saved Jaguar Cars, John Egan:
* The future: ''What comes next? Well, I'm not making a mini-Jaguar. That would be foolish. Any new models will be genuine Jaguars, in the luxury car sector. Fuel efficiency? Yes, there'll be a tendency toward that.''
He denies outright a Times of London report that he is working on an XJ80 small Jaguar to compete with the smaller BMWs and the new small Mercedes.
Senior executives agree that a new XJ40 will be launched in 1984 (at the Birmingham motor show in the fall). They would give no details. A prototype drove past as I stood outside the Jaguar plant the other day, its rear windows disguised with cardboard. It looked shorter and squarer than existing models.
A new convertible model of the XJS sports model is due to be launched this year.
* The present: On strikes: ''Yes, we do push our workers hard to produce more. Yes, there's a risk of strikes like they have had at Cowley [BL's plant near Oxford], but we don't yet produce as well as Mercedes does, so we have a way to go.''
On skilled labor: ''Britain is short of good young engineers. We turn out only 60 percent of the number the [West] Germans do. Jaguar is developing courses with Salford and Aston Universities, and we take on 50 to 60 youngsters each year for our own four-year apprenticeship training.''
On target countries: ''We've proved that our car now has a market all over the world. The luxury car market is a stable one, and our improved car sells well to Americans now. Next target: West Germany. Japan we'll leave for a while. Let bigger companies hammer on that door for a while. But when we get in, we'll sell well there, wait and see.''
* The past: ''In the '60s and '70s, British industry was badly managed. A great deal of control went by default to unions. Unions are generally not interested in quality-control or delivery dates or being competitive.''
Asked what the role of unions in his plant was now, Egan smiled. ''I'm not quite sure,'' he said. ''We have a job to do to work it out.