Jaguar’s director of design Ian Callum created the C-X75 – driven by Bond villain Mr Hinx in Spectre. He discusses leadership lessons, creating the F-type and his brand new Bond car
I started drawing at a very young age. I drew everything around the house, moved onto cars and realised that this is how cars must be created.
Jaguar and Porsche were my favourite childhood cars. We lived in a small town in Scotland so there weren’t many exotic cars but my dad’s friends had the Jaguar Mark 2 and then the XJS. There were a couple of E-types in the town, which was fascinating, and a Porsche 256 – a nice car.
I knew I wanted to design cars in primary school and I never changed my mind. I was quite good academically – mathematics was one of my best subjects, which fitted well with the mindset I needed for car design. That and art, of course.
Cycling has always been important to me. I used to build my bike, rebuild it and take it apart. I would do a lot of cycling as a kid. I’d take off by myself on a Saturday and do 30-mile rides. I still get on my bike when I need to recharge. I love being outside – it gives me a sense of freedom.
My first job was at Ford’s design studio in Essex in 1979. It taught me the reality of designing cars in the real world. It’s very easy to create an exotic car but factors from other functions of the business – dimensions, cost, safety, weight – affect the way you design. You have to be very creative to get round these things and still create something exciting.
When I arrived at Jaguar 15 years ago, it was pretty well broken. They were building good cars but they were conservative and weren’t appealing to younger people. My objectives were to turn that around and we’re just about there now.
Youthful is very important to me – Jaguar is now youthful. It’s got nothing to do with age – it’s a state of mind.
I’ve got great admiration for Burberry because they’ve turned their business into a very youthful business. It was living in the past, but it’s taken the tradition and turned it on its head and we’ve got a bit of that at Jaguar – taking what we own and putting a spin on it.
Making things happen is the most exciting part of the job. To be in the position where I can affect the present and particularly the future of Jaguar is a privilege and something I never take for granted.
The Tata group has been very gracious in protecting, and to a certain extent, financing the brand to where it is today. I don’t think Ford had huge confidence that Jaguar would ever succeed, but Mr Tata came in and decided we were going to make this brand work, whatever it takes. He took a long-term view and it’s paying off.
Having Mr Tata’s personal support has helped me enormously. He loves and understands design – he’s an architect by training. He is a very inspiring person to be with. Having his support gives me leverage and the pathway to get things done. If he doesn’t agree with me, he tells me and we discuss it.
I have worked very hard to put the right team together: the character of the person matters as much to me as their design abilities. I surround myself with good people who are also my friends, and I think I’ve got one of the best design teams in the world.
My hardest time was eight years ago when we were designing the XF. The objective was to replace the old, very traditional S-type. I wanted to break the mould with this XF but there was resistance from people fairly high up in the business. I had to do a huge amount of work to convince them it was the right answer – there were a lot of sleepless nights – but I utterly believed in the car. After a lot of wrangling we won through and it’s been a huge success.
The best bit of business advice I received was from my father. He told me, at quite a young age, ‘You can do anything you want as long as you really want it and you work hard enough.’ That stayed with me.
What a crisis is usually looking for is leadership. I used to get quite anxious but I now take a step back and get methodical. I think very hard about the situation, what’s causing it and how we can fix it.
Leadership is born out of vision, determination and clarity. The one thing I’ve got no time for is ambiguity and confusion.
Bond has never driven a Jag but the baddies have. The new car, the C-X75, is going to be my all-time favourite car in a Bond movie.
I drive an F-type. It’s a fabulous car and I am proud of it. When I was growing up I never thought I’d be working on the successor to the E-type. It took 50 years to get there and I am very privileged to have been involved. Is it my favourite car? I always say my favourite car is going to be my next car.