Chrome-wrapped beauty all about changing perceptions

Jaguar New Zealand's brand manager Helen Sunley is used to people taking her photo. She's also used to people doing double takes when she's driving.

She doesn't mind finding people crowding around her work car whenever she parks it. She's even used to people demanding she wind down her window when she's in her car so they can speak to her.

Having so much attention is what she expected when, just weeks into her new role, Sunley suggested to her boss, Motorcorp general manager James Yates, that she "chrome" a Jaguar XF.

The four-door sports sedan had received a "significant" price decrease this year, with the 2.2-litre diesel starting at $90,000 and making the brand available to a wider range of buyers.


But Sunley wanted to push the brand further with public perception. Having "chromed" a car in her previous motoring role in Britain, she knew the reaction it could cause.

As a school-leaver, Sunley worked in sales at her local Ford dealership in Yorkshire, England, before completing a degree in business and marketing and eventually a masters in automotive marketing.

Having experienced working for a large multi-franchise dealer group, then manufacturers Saab and Chevrolet (GM) in England, Sunley moved to New Zealand last year to join her partner, before being appointed to Jaguar NZ in August.

With the approval of her boss Yates, Sunley took her work vehicle XF to Auckland company Boston Digital in September, where they spent 50 hours wrapping the vehicle in vinyl to create the "chrome" effect. It debuted at the Arts Foundation awards function, of which Jaguar NZ was a sponsor, before taking to the road.

And since then? More reaction than Sunley expected and the resulting PR and brand attention definitely paying for the (confidential) expense of wrapping the car.

She's lost count of the number of people who have taken photos of the vehicle. During Driven's hour-long photo shoot at Auckland's Cornwall Park, at least seven people stopped to take photos on their phones - from mums pushing prams to tourists walking past, and passengers in cars.

Yip, the car is an attention-seeker. The mirror effect makes it stand out - be it on the road or parked outside the company's head office in Mt Wellington.

"People take photos of the car all the time," said Sunley. "If it's parked people come over for a chat. The majority of the comments have been really positive - and it covers all demographics, from kids to an 85-year-old woman."

One of the more amusing incidents was when Sunley was stopped at on-ramp traffic lights and a man next to her in a BMW 6 Series tooted his horn and motioned for her to wind down the window.

"I was worried what he was going to say, but he yelled at me, 'what the hell is your car?"'

But having the Jaguar XF chromed wasn't just about turning heads for Sunley. "It's really about changing the perception of the brand ... it's about showcasing the 2013 model range, how much it's changed over the the past year."

Next year will be important for Jaguar in New Zealand with the arrival of the F-Type.

While the chromed XF is now a "family member" at Jaguar NZ, Sunley's new work vehicle next year will be a white F-Type supercharged V8 that is currently being built at the company's England plant.