Jaguar is poised to have a record 2015 and to keep growing global sales to well above 200,000 this decade as a massive investment in products, plants and underpinnings starts to pay dividends. It’s a huge turnaround for the once product-starved, nearly bankrupt British brand, whose global volume slumped to less than 43,000 in 2010. Since then Jaguar has been re-invented to aggressively challenge top German rivals in key global segments, and it has done this with the help of executives possessing nearly a century of experience at global premium car leader BMW.
Some looming questions faced by Jaguar, however, include: How much of a financial hit it will take from entering the highly competitive midsize segment and the price-sensitive fleet market? Can it make a noticeable dent in the huge global sales lead of its much larger, richer German rivals, especially in markets such as China where it is barely known?
Jaguar’s revival begins in May with the arrival of the XE, which gives it a long-awaited midsize model to battle the BMW 3 series, Mercedes-Benz C class and Audi A4. The XE also is the first of many fresh Jaguars that will be underpinned by the automaker’s new lightweight aluminum platform. Jaguar Land Rover has poured 2 billion pounds (2.5 billion euros) into developing this platform along with a new range of fuel-efficient engines. Much of the bill has been paid for by profits earned from unprecedented global demand for Land Rover’s SUVs.
The platform will also yield a replacement for the XF large premium model, which is expected later this year, and Jaguar’s first SUV, due to be unveiled at this month’s Detroit auto show ahead of its 2016 sales start. When the SUV arrives, four out of five cars in Jaguar’s range will be less than 3 years old. “We’ve invested a significant amount of money in Jaguar and we’ve got a phenomenal model cadence going forward, starting with the XE,” JLR Sales Operations Director Andy Goss told Automotive News Europe.
The British marque, which turns 80 this year, has been problematic both for JLR’s previous owner, Ford, and India’s Tata Motors, which bought Jaguar and Land Rover from the U.S. automaker in 2008. A decade before the sale former Jaguar boss Nick Scheele promised he would quadruple sales to 200,000 in four years, led by a BMW 3-series fighter named the X-Type.
The big leap never happened. After reaching a global sales high of 103,300 in 2002, Jaguar’s total fell to the low 40,000s in 2010. The X-Type was such a financial disaster that Bernstein Research analyst Max Warburton estimates Jaguar lost 1.7 billion euros on the car, or 4,687 euros per model sold during the Ford Mondeo-based flop’s nine-year life cycle.
Jaguar has pulled out of that financial sinkhole. Sales are expected to top 112,000 this year after surpassing 80,000 in 2014. That’s still tiny compared with Land Rover -- last year Jaguar sales accounted for just one-fifth of JLR’s overall total. However, the addition of the XE and subsequent models such as the midsize SUV and a compact SUV that is expected to arrive in 2017 will push Jaguar sales past 200,000 by 2018, according an IHS Automotive forecast (see graphic, Page 7).
JLR declined to provide a sales forecast for Jaguar for this story, but the company recently broke its silence on its overall volume goal, which is to double current JLR sales to 850,000 by 2020. “Of that we see a more representative split for Jaguar to reflect market opportunity,” JLR Global Fleet Director Ken Forbes told Automotive News Europe.