Jaguar Land Rover bullish on Europe
Operations boss Kuhnt expects F-Type, other new models to help the automaker re-write its history
JLR head of European operations Bernhard Kuhnt: "The F-Type will set records for us in terms of image and new customers."
Led by the Range Rover Evoque, Land Rover was Europe's fastest-growing brand last year with unit sales up by 35 percent to 100,698. Jaguar increased sales by 3 percent to 23,685 despite the total European market falling 8 percent.
Jaguar Land Rover head of European operations Bernhard Kuhnt sees a positive 2013 for both brands in the region because of strong demand for the recently launched new Range Rover and the early-summer arrival the Jaguar F-Type.
Kuhnt spoke with Automotive News Europe Managing Editor Douglas A. Bolduc.
Is Jaguar Land Rover profitable in Europe?
What I can tell you is that Europe is still our biggest region with about 22 percent of the global volume and, as far as profit is concerned, we are making a very healthy contribution to the company's overall performance.
Last year, Land Rover's European sales rose 35 percent and Jaguar increased 3 percent. What are the sales expectations for 2013?
I don't expect we can replicate our [Land Rover unit sales] growth because Spain and Italy are going through a very difficult time. Overall, though, I think we will grow very profitably. A key reason for this is the Range Rover, which we launched in December. We have long delivery times because the demand already is more than 1,000 units above the capacity. If I could get more Range Rovers, I am sure we could sell them. Another positive surprise is that customers are ordering Range Rovers with many optional features. Meanwhile, Jaguar will increase its volume this year because of the F-Type. We foresee a slight year-over-year sales increase for Jaguar in every European country.
What are you expecting from the F-Type?
The F-Type is a unique car that will set records for us in terms of image and new customers. We have already seen this with the Evoque, which has a conquest rate of 80 percent. So eight out of 10 Evoque buyers are new to the Land Rover brand. The F-Type will play a similar role. We expect a significant conquest rate.
Is your model portfolio inadequate?
When it comes to Land Rover, I think we have an excellent position. We also have a very good lineup at Jaguar, but we are very aware that we need to look at segments below the ones that we are competing in currently.
Will Jaguar get an SUV?
We can't talk about future products, but what I can say is that we are open enough as an organization to look at all areas and segments. It could be SUVs, small cars, hybrids and so on. We are looking at a variety of things. If they make sense, they will happen and if they don't make sense, they won't happen.
Will there be an SUV smaller than the Evoque to compete with the planned small Jeep?
We are interested in growing segments as well as big segments. The [recently launched] Sportbrake is an example of this. Wagons make up 50 percent of the volume for cars in the XF's segment in Europe. We don't have the aim to be the No. 1 premium brand. We want to grow profitability. If is makes sense for us to enter a segment with the right vehicle, like we did with the Evoque, we will.
Do you measure yourself against your German rivals?
The three German premium brands are very successful so we constantly need to be one our toes to compete with them. We can't compete with them on all levels but if you compare Land Rover's sales to the sales of comparable SUVs at some of our German rivals, we're right there with them.
Will profits from the Evoque shrink now that lower specification variants are coming to market?
I don't foresee this. The starting price for the Evoque in Europe is about 35,000 euros. Our average selling price for the car is about 53,000 to 54,000 euros depending on the country. Customers have a huge choice of options with that car and they taking advantage of this by adding lots of extras.
How big will JLR get?
If our CEO Dr. [Ralf] Speth lets me stay with the company until 2016-2017, I can tell you that we are all going to be very busy up until that stage. On the product side we're going to see more than the company has ever seen in its history.
You can reach Douglas A. Bolduc at email@example.com.