Jaguar design boss Julian Thomson quits

Jaguar's head of design, Julian Thomson, will leave at the end of May as the brand transforms itself into an EV-only automaker.

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Derek Fung
Journalist

On top of searching for a potential electric vehicle platform partner, Jaguar will need to look for a new design director.

Overnight the British luxury car maker confirmed that Julian Thomson, the current design boss, will be leaving the firm at the end of May 2021.

It’s unclear where Thomson will appear next, or who will lead Jaguar’s design team as it seeks to invent itself as an EV-only high-end luxury brand.

The new direction for Jaguar was announced in February by Jaguar Land Rover CEO Thierry Bollore. In a surprise move, the company also revealed it was killing the almost production-ready next-generation, all-electric XJ sedan.

In November 2020, Land Rover’s design chief Gerry McGovern was elevated to the role of Chief Creative Officer for the entire automaker, giving him oversight of both Jaguar and Land Rover.

McGovern will presumably take temporary control of Jaguar.

In March, Bollore told investors McGovern will have a great deal of autonomy in deciding how the new electric Jaguars should look and what models the range will have.

“There is no point doing what we are doing with Jaguar unless these products are drop-dead gorgeous,” Bollore said.

Thomson was elevated from Creative Design Director to Director of Design for Jaguar in July 2019 when Ian Callum left to start his own design company.

The two had worked together at Jaguar for almost two decades.

Thomson has a degree in mechanical engineering, but his career in automotive design began when he started a masters at the Royal College of Art.

After graduating in 1984, Thomson worked at Ford, a company he found “quite stifling and too corporate”.

By 1986 he was at Lotus, where he most famously led the design for the 1996 Elise, the two-door roadster which returned the company to its affordable sports car roots.

After that he was head of exterior design at Volkswagen’s concept studio in Barcelona, Spain, before joining Jaguar in 2000.

According to his official Jaguar biography, Thomson was “instrumental in delivering [a] renaissance in design”, which includes XK and XJ, as well as all of the current range from the F-Type, XE and XF through to the E-Pace, F-Pace and I-Pace.

MORE: 2020 Q&A with Julian Thomson


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