Tip your hat
to Tata. The Indian conglomerate that bought Jaguar and Land Rover
from Ford in 2008 has turned out to be the best owner the British
marques ever had.
luxury brands changed hands before and during the Great Recession
— most notably Hummer, Saab, Aston Martin and Volvo — and
stumbled under new ownership, Jaguar Land Rover is flourishing. But
challenges lie ahead.
In the five
years since the Tata Group bought them from Ford, Jaguar and Land
Rover have aggressively adopted fuel-efficient new drivetrains, with
more to come. The brands’ styling has also been energized, as JLR’s
design teams shook things up with fresh styling.
case was especially dire. In 2008, the SUV-only brand appeared to be
on a fast track to extinction.
JLR and Tata
turned that around with the Evoque, the first vehicle largely
developed under the new management. The small, fuel-efficient Evoque
redefined the luxury SUV, won awards and fueled a sales surge. JLR
dealers made a record 357,773 sales in 2012, the Evoque’s first
full year on the market.
managed to take a brand that was three-quarters of the way around
the bend to irrelevancy and make it something to be benchmarked for
style, technology and luxury," said Edmunds.com senior analyst
important, Tata listened to the people who sell Jaguars and Land
Rovers. Ratan Tata, the company’s recently retired chairman,
toured American dealerships and asked what they needed to compete
with BMW and Mercedes. The folks who sell the cars and SUVs begged
for fuel-efficient drivetrains and all-wheel-drive cars. Without
them, Jaguar was a marginal player, shut out of the segments that
account for 93 percent of U.S. luxury sales.
Just two years
later, every Jaguar sedan offers all-wheel-drive, and either a four-
or six-cylinder engine is available in nearly every model JLR sells.
speak for themselves. JLR’s U.S. sales are up 13 percent this
year. JLR’s pre-tax profit rose 27 percent last year, and should
be higher this year.
big move comes this fall, when the little Jaguar F-type roadster
arrives. Priced, sized and powered to compete with such sports cars
as the Porsche Boxster and Chevrolet Corvette, the F-type was
developed to attract new buyers and restore the brand’s
credentials with enthusiasts.
— long their weakness — is improving. J.D. Power rated Jaguar
No. 2 in initial quality last year. Land Rover still scores poorly.
say Tata has reinvested profits in new products and plants, but can
they keep up with competitors who sell two or three times as many
and Land Rover still benefit from engines and platforms developed
when the brands were part of Ford’s global research and
development system. It’s building a plant in England to produce
new fuel-efficient engines, beginning in 2015 or 2016. It will be a
huge victory for Tata if the engines can compete with the best from
global luxury brands.
comes a pair of even taller tasks: developing new vehicle platforms
and a compact sedan that can compete with the BMW 3 series, Cadillac
ATS and Mercedes-Benz C-class. Every global luxury brand needs to be
in that hot-selling segment.
delivers on those metrics could determine if the first five years
under Tata were the beginning of a golden age, or a brief moment in