CHICAGO – Jaguar Land Rover is on a roll. The two iconic British brands, purchased from Ford by India’s Tata in 2008, are making money and grew sales 30% in 2012, delivering 357,773 vehicles worldwide.
The results also were positive in the U.S., where the luxury brands moved 55,675 units last year, up 11% from 2011. U.S. sales amounted to 43,664 for Land Rover and 12,011 for Jaguar, according to WardsAuto data.
“I am pleased to report that our first month of 2013 is off to a supercharged start with a 25% gain for both brands and particularly the Land Rover brand, which kicked off the year with its highest-volume U.S. January sales in the history of the company,” Andy Goss, president of Jaguar Land Rover North America, says in a keynote speech kicking off the Chicago auto show.
“Not a bad way to start the year.”
Earnings have been substantial: $1.6 billion in fiscal-year 2011 and a record $2.4 billion in fiscal 2012. Over the past 2 ½ years, JLR worldwide has reported $5 billion in profits.
Two new product launches, one for each brand, have Goss convinced 2013 will be a banner year and 2014 could be even better: The fourth-generation aluminium-intensive Range Rover SUV went on sale in December, and this summer Jaguar begins marketing the F-Type 2-seat roadster, designed to directly compete with the Mercedes SLK, BMW Z4, Audi TT and Porsche Boxster.
Starting price for the F-Type is $69,000, which deliberately is set 25% below the base price of the Porsche 911 coupe, Goss says. “The F-type absolutely hits the heart of Porsche, right between the Boxster and 911.”
Meanwhile, the larger and more expensive Jaguar XK 4-seat convertible will remain a grand tourer with a completely different, more sedate, personality, Goss says, playing up the F-Type’s athletic demeanor and throaty exhaust note.
For this reason, Goss says the F-Type and XK can coexist. “When we clinic the F-Type, and we’ve done it on the East and West coasts, we’ve invited XK customers to come see the car. As far as they’re concerned, they are two totally different products.”
Jaguar will assemble the F-Type at its Castle Bromwich plant in Birmingham, U.K., and Goss expects half the volume to come from the U.S. He declines to predict annual sales for the roadster, but its prospects appear to be modest.
True, U.S. sales of luxury sports cars grew 19.7% in 2012 to 43,788 vehicles, but the roadsters maintained niche status in the country with deliveries of 4,595 SLKs, 2,900 Boxsters, 2,751 Z4s and 2,226 TTs, according to WardsAuto data.
Further boosting Jaguar sales in the U.S. is recent availability of all-wheel drive in two sedans, the XJ and XF.
“I must admit when I moved to the United States two years ago, I didn’t absolutely understand why all the retailers here were telling me they needed all-wheel drive,” the British-born Goss says in his speech.
“But after living in the Northeast the last two years, with two hurricanes and a minor earthquake, and fighting snowstorms in New Jersey, Detroit, Chicago and Denver, I have come to a much deeper understanding of America and its weather.”
In the meantime, Goss says a significant challenge facing JLR is meeting demand in the still-growing U.S. market.
“We can sell as many vehicles as we can get,” he says. “It’s not demand that’s a problem for us. We need to maximize supply for the U.S. market. I think 2014 will be a huge year for us.”
U.K. plants in Halewood and Solihull are running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and investments are being made at the facilities to alleviate bottlenecks.
The auto maker has spent $600 million in Solihull to create the world’s largest aluminium body shop for the Range Rover. The U.K. also got a new $570 million engine plant, and a vehicle-assembly site is under construction in China.
Goss says the additional capacity will mean “hundreds of thousands more vehicles than we currently have.”
On the retail front, JLR is attempting to consolidate locations so customers visiting one store can shop both brands at the same time. In the U.S., the auto maker has 245 retail “rooftops,” and the goal is to reduce that number to 200.
About 50% of U.S. showrooms already are combined, but Goss says the company is striving for 75%. In Canada and newer markets such as China and India, JLR franchises already share retail space. Worldwide, 121 new dealers received franchises last year.
Goss says dealer consolidation is advancing nicely in New York, New Jersey, San Francisco and San Jose, CA.
Metropolitan Chicago has 14 franchises under 11 rooftops. Of those, three are combined JLR centers, four are independent Land Rover showrooms and four are independent Jaguar locations. The plan is to keep the same number of franchises but house them in fewer buildings.
Goss says additional U.S. retailers may be needed in the future, but it is not an area of immediate focus.
By way of product strategy, Goss cites certain segments the two brands will consider entering, and says Jaguar remains interested in a cross/utility vehicle.
“We’re looking at all segments,” he says. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out smaller sedans and CUVs would make perfect sense. If we ever did that (add a Jaguar CUV), there’s a clear point of differentiation and delineation between the two brands.”
As international mandates roll out to improve fuel economy and reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, Goss says JLR will continue expanding the use of efficient 4-cyl. and 6-cyl. engines. Still, he anticipates high-output engines, even V-8s, will remain in both brands’ U.S. portfolios.
“I think there will always be a marketplace in the U.S. for 6- and 8-cyl. engines,” he says, as long as there are diesels, 4-cyl. engines, stop/start and other technologies to boost the brands’ overall fleet average.
“All options are on the table for us.”