Tata Group

Jaguar Land Rover to step up a gear

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 December, 2011, 12:00am


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Jaguar Land Rover, the British car maker owned by India's Tata Motors, aims to double its sales in Hong Kong over the next five years with an eye on boosting its profile both locally and in the mainland market, according to Joseph Lau, Hong Kong general manager for the brands at official distributor Inchcape.

'Hong Kong is a unique market because it is not very big ... but there are so many affluent Chinese visitors coming here,' said Lau. 'They see what is popular among Hong Kong people and view those brands as high quality. That way they get automatic recognition on the mainland.'

Inchcape is using local launches of new Jaguar Land Rover models to also target prospective mainland buyers, buying up space on prominent outdoor billboards in areas popular with tourists, like Causeway Bay, and also advertising at the airport.

The strategy is part of a bigger regional push to grow the brands, which Tata acquired from Ford Motors in 2008 for US$2.3 billion. Inchcape has long been the local distributor of Jaguar cars, and starting from this month replaced Sime Darby - Ford's local importer - as the official distributor of Land Rover.

Inchcape recently opened a new showroom for Land Rover on Gloucester Road, renovated its Wan Chai Jaguar showroom and added a second service centre for both brands in Kwai Chung.

The company hopes to double local sales of JLR vehicles in the next five years, up from an expected 135 Jaguar deliveries this year and 250 Land Rover deliveries.

The British carmaker would launch 40 new models over the same time period, Lau said.

The mainland is set to overtake the US as JLR's biggest market after the UK as early as this year. Land Rover's mainland sales rose 54 per cent in the first 10 months of the year to 27,761 units, while Jaguar's rose 91 per cent to 4,382 cars.

JLR plans to open 100 mainland dealerships by the end of the year, up from 80 at the end of October. Demand for some Land Rover models, such as the newly launched Evoque, is such that mainland buyers ordering a new car may have to wait up to one year for delivery.

The company is also tailoring its line-up to the market. Jaguar previously introduced a 3.0 litre, six-cylinder version of its executive XJ model that is exclusive to the mainland.

The model already came with an extended wheelbase option, a must for the mainland executive car market, but its original gas-guzzling, eight cylinder variant did not catch on like the smaller-engine version has, according to Lau.

Inchcape is a London-listed global car distributor that traces its roots to Scottish businessmen in 1840s British India. It is in the process of spending around HK$2 billion to add 16 new mainland dealerships by 2016 to the four it now operates there.

In Hong Kong, Inchcape's third-biggest market globally, the company also operates as Crown Motors and is the sole official importer for Toyota and Lexus.

'What we see for Jaguar is local buyers getting younger and younger,' said Lau.

'Previously if I asked a 30-year-old gentleman to get into a Jaguar he would have a lot of hesitation, like he would be driving Daddy's or Grandpa's car. But the new cars are very different and stylish. The driving performance and tuning is getting sportier, which is more suitable for young people.'