LONDON -- Jaguar Land Rover has added a third shift for the Land Rover Defender SUV at its Slovakian plant to help clear a backlog of orders for its best-selling model.
The Defender, which is available in three different body lengths, has been JLR’s top seller for the past seven quarters as the company prioritized higher-margin models amid the chip shortage.
The offroader topped the automaker’s chart for wholesales (sales to dealers) for the quarter ending Dec. 31 at 23,816, company figures show. Orders for the Defender remain high at around quarter of the company’s 214,000-strong order book, JLR said.
“As we move to three shifts you will see increasingly a lot of our orders on Defender will start fall and retails [sales] increase,” interim CEO Adrian Mardell said on an earnings call to announce its quarterly results.
The company posted its first profit in eight quarters for the quarter ending Dec. 31.
JLR is focusing on boosting production of the Defender, the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, which it called its “three most profitable models.”
The three models accounted for 64 percent of the company’s wholesale figures, rising to three quarters with sales of cars from the company’s joint venture in China removed from the mix.
JLR has been forced to cut production of its more affordable models as the chip crisis continued to hamper the company’s abilities to build cars. The plant that builds the Defender in Nitra, Slovakia was omitted from the production cuts.
Wholesales of the automaker’s traditional best-selling model, the Range Rover Evoque compact SUV, fell below 10,000 for only the second quarter in the model’s history.
Meanwhile, sales of the Land Rover Discovery Sport midsize SUV, another formerly strong seller, were the worst since its launch, at just 6,230.
Wholesales of the Discovery large SUV, which is also built in Nitra, fell to just 1,924 in the last quarter -- the lowest volume since it was launched in 2018.
JLR’s two most expensive models, the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, were the second and third biggest sellers in the quarter respectively, helping push the company’s selling price to over 70,000 pounds ($87,000), Mardell said.
“The Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and the MLA architecture that both models are built on, are fundamental to our business model and our business success,” Mardell told analysts.
Mardell said JLR’s normal sales volume, without production constraints, was about 40,000 vehicles a month, up from about 27,000 currently.
“Today we are a long way from normal,” he said. “I believe the challenge through 2023 will continue to be supply rather than demand.”