What next for Jaguar design as Julian Thomson quits after less than two years? | CAR Magazine

What next for Jaguar design as Julian Thomson quits after less than two years?

Published: 05 May 2021 Updated: 06 May 2021

► Jag design chief quits after two years
► Julian Thomson to leave this month
► ‘Land Rover insider to take over’

Julian Thomson is quitting his role as director of design at Jaguar, less than two years after taking over from Ian Callum on 1 July 2019. He will leave the business later in May, it was confirmed today.

The news calls into question the future design direction at Jaguar, which is undergoing emergency surgery following the arrival of Thierry Bollore as CEO. He has already canned the all-electric next-generation XJ project and fast-tracked the transformation to make Jaguar an EV-only brand by mid-decade.

These are radical times at Jaguar. It is not yet confirmed who will take over, but rumour suggests that a Land Rover design executive will take the reins. Nor is it yet known where Thomson will move to, although he has been linked to an overseas role at an EV start-up.

He leaves Jaguar five months after Land Rover design chief Gerry McGovern was promoted above him to join the Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) board as chief creative officer across both brands.

Thomson exits Jaguar: the Callum era is well and truly over

Thomson was an acolyte of Callum’s and his rapid departure appears significant as new management look to refresh the big cat’s wardrobe. Before joining Jaguar in 2000, Thomson worked at Ford, Lotus and Volkswagen and he was a trusted and popular car designer.

We drove Julian Thomson's personal Series 1 Lotus Elise for our 700th issue

He’s most keenly known as the man responsible for the original £18,995 series 1 Lotus Elise during his stint as head of design in Hethel and we tested his personal car in our 700th issue last year (above).

Callum (below) presided over Jaguar design for two decades that ushered in the biggest period of change in the car maker’s history, steering it through the Ford years to the pivotal XF saloon and on to the more adventurous Tata era, culminating in the memorable F-Type, current crop of SUVs and the brand’s first electric car, the confidently progressive i-Pace.

Tellingly, Thomson was part of that team for most of Callum’s reign.

Ian Callum: the ex-design director at Jaguar

Callum tweeted his reaction when news first broke of his successor’s departure:

The era of progressive Jaguar styling was always going to be a hard act to follow. ‘I’m honoured to take up the position of director of design at Jaguar,’ Thomson said at the time of his appointment in July 2019. ‘It will be a great privilege to lead such a talented team, and continue to build on our success. Automotive design has always been fast moving, but today it is changing at a rate faster than ever before. I’m passionate about ensuring Jaguar Design leads that change, and the cars that will drive our future.’

Sadly, that tenure was too short-lived. Be sure to sound off on Thomson’s departure in the comments below.

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By Tim Pollard

Group digital editorial director, car news magnet, crafter of words